Giuseppe Emmanuele

Reflections in Jazz

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If there were ever a more aptly titled record, I've never heard it. Pianist Giuseppe Emmanuele leads a fine quintet through a sleepy program of originals and jazz classics that never break a sweat, never stir an emotion, and never give pause to the imagination, never adding a thing to the tradition. Opening with Ellington's "On a Turquoise Cloud," a ballad in the classic early-'60s Duke fake book, the band, with two adept but unimaginative saxophonists, manages to play the Strayhorn arrangement exactly as it was written without missing a note until a strange cadenza gets tossed in at the end where they try to make the tune an avant-garde reading. But it feels forced and stilted. This gives way to the most interesting composition on the record, "Astarte," with a gorgeous modal opening that bleeds into a straight hard bop tune that bleeds into a bluesy post-bop swinger and back. By the time the band gets to its Monk tribute with "Straight, No Monk," or Charlie Parker's "Stupendous," the listener is probably snoring. I thought jazz this boring only came from universities and music schools in America.

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