Vanguard Italian jazz saxophonist and composer Stefano Maltese (who looks as though he stepped out of a turn of the 20th century photograph) has recorded what can only be considered -- up until this point anyway -- as his masterwork. This large suite, which loosely translates as "Shadow of the South," is a work of such longing, ambition, and heartache that it's a wonder it was finished at all. So Mediterranean is its palette that one can feel the sun, sea, and sand emanating from its grooves. Utilizing a 23-piece orchestra to execute a work that is as much new classical music as it is jazz, Maltese begins and ends with the same tune in the execution of a deeply hued, many textured work that is at certain times full of pastoral textures and at others a frenetic postmodern jazz eclecticism that evokes voices as diverse as Gil Evans, Stan Kenton, Butch Morris, Oliver Nelson, Bruno Maderna, and Ennio Morricone. With a host of soloists heretofore unheard of in the Italian jazz world, Maltese has been able to authoritatively shape his vision of the southern Italian/Sicilian blues with a decided lack of theatricality and an emphasized musicality sadly lacking in much of the work composed for large ensembles today. The advanced timbral aesthetics and harmonic inventions he employs in the articulation of his ideas are, simply put, staggering in their scope and variety. A wondrously subdued, restrained argument for romantic drama in the jazz idiom, Sombra del Sur is a masterpiece.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek