Paolo Fresu

Qvarto

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With Qvarto, Paolo Fresu's regular quintet -- Fresu on trumpet and flügelhorn, Tino Tracanna on saxophones, Roberto Cipelli on piano, Attilio Zanchi on bass, and Ettore Fioravanti on drums -- turns in one of its most openly melodic investigations of post-bop harmony on record. Fresu's compositions have taken on a decidedly blue color and a determinedly modal tonal structure. Harmonic invention is the order of the day, with modes shifting from major to minor to augmented to diminished in the bat of an eye, throughout a relaxed and subtly driven session. On "The Trumpet Is a Woman," Fresu states his knotty opening with flourishes of flatted fifths and sevenths as Tracanna opens his solo in a striated minor mode in counterpoint. When Cipelli changes the harmonic architecture with a series of percussively angular middle-register runs to restate the melody from the underside, Fresu cascades over him in skeins of contrapuntal harmonics. And while these proceedings swing hard and long, taking their cue not so much from the blues this time as from a blues feeling, they never prepare the listener for the one true cover on the disc, "Only Women Bleed" (yes, that's right, the Alice Cooper tune). Here, Fresu acknowledges his open gratitude for the influence of Miles Davis and Chet Baker. Taking the melodic line and placing it modally into the center of a study in deep blues with cool jazz overtones, Fresu and Tracanna hold forth, subtly shading each other's lines with swirls and flourishes as they course through the melody. Cipelli is brilliant here because of his ability to keep the harmony focused yet open, allowing for all kinds of changes to fall into the middle of the tune without sacrificing it. It's a gorgeous reading, far better than the tune deserves -- especially when it changes about midway through and becomes a mid-tempo swinger. Qvarto is the hallmark of a great band doing what it does best: instilling each number they play with a kind of innovative lyricism, one that finds the beauty in a piece of music no matter what that piece of music is.

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