Herb Robertson

The Legend of the Missing Link

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Trumpet giant Herb Robertson has performed and recorded sporadically with members of the Italian jazz community, usually as a sideman. For these studio sessions, he leads two separate ensembles, the first a septet with an all-star cast of Italian jazz musicians, and the second a pared-down quintet. While there is plenty of prime trumpet playing from Robertson, and strong contributions from his colleagues, too, there is a sense that the element of surprise is not as acute as it might be. All the compositions are by the leader, and although they are fine showcases for the individual soloists, there is an occasional lack of focus. The abstract pieces draw from a considerable lineage in which notated and improvised sections merge. Highlights include the trumpeter's usually eclectic sound, Renato Geremia's incredible versatility, and Beppe Caruso's gutsy trombone. Tononi, Mangialajo, and Tacchini are a solid rhythm section, as talented and cohesive as any. When they are at full throttle, as on "Chain of Command," fireworks light the sky. They are equally impressive, too, on the more subdued tunes, such as the title piece. While this might not be the trumpeter's best work on disc, it is still further proof of the considerable skills and original concepts of a major underrated performer at the height of his powers who is one of the strongest personalities of his generation.