Giampaolo Casati

Royal Garden Blues

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Some might view an Italian trumpeter's homage to Louis Armstrong as a bit of an oddity -- and perhaps it is -- but even more so it reflects Satchmo's universal appeal. Italy's thriving jazz scene has tended to immerse itself in the avant-garde or modern mainstream, which makes sense given the country's history. Riccardo Zegna and, even more so, Giampaolo Casati look to the early third of the 20th century for their inspiration when times were simpler and jazz music was mellower and more melodic. This retrospective attitude is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is one of the best ways to keep this glorious music kicking. Casati keeps close to the melodic line, more so than Armstrong and even more than pianist colleague Zegna, who impresses with his limber fingers and personal interpretations. While Casati is a fine performer with a good ear, he sounds as though he evolved from a school of Dixieland and not from any time in the last several decades. He summarily ignores technical advances on his instrument, modern strategies, and alternative harmonies, and instead opts for a look backward that adds little unusual other than the duo format (and though rare, it was occasionally indulged in by Armstrong). He brings to the plate a relaxed swinging style, a good glissando, a few growls, and some dirty blowing. While it is good fun and well done (never rare or medium-well), the original or at least early recordings of these tunes should be heard first, the difference being the excitement generated when they were first traversed. Without adding much that is innovative, Casati and Zegna nonetheless perform with a graceful panache, with the trumpeter's generally pinched tone and thin sound in the higher registers less a distraction than a matter of style.

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