|Alessandro Fabbri (drums - arr.) Maurizio Giammarco (saxes - arr.) Ares Tavolazzi (bass) Roberto Rossi (tbn) Fabrizio Gaudino (tpt)|
Alberto Serpente (french Horn) Dario Duso (tuba)
|(Luca Bragalini cover notes)|
It has been said that harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti never performed in front of an audience due to his shyness. The same applies to the Catalane Maestro Federico Mompou. Orchestra conducting scared quiet Ciajkovskij to death, and Shostakovich was reluctant as well. Not differently, also "syncopated music" included similar personalities, like J.P. Johnson, John Lewis or Lester Young. But the rare video shots of Billy Strayhorn document the most reserved personality of jazz history. During a 1965 concert, when Duke Ellington invites him to play Take The A Train, he looks uneasy and embarrassed by the leader and by the audience: he salutes both with a stiff bow before slowly approaching the piano. Two years earlier, in a TV broadcasted concert, he had shown, if possible, even more awkwardness upon walking up to the keyboard to play. Nevertheless he definitively had no problems on his instrument, the piano: in his youth he dreamed of being a Classic performer. And surely he was not insecure about his high level: he was well aware of his compositional skills. Strayhorn was not a fearful man: this can be proved by the fact that in post Second World War America he had unveiled homosexual behaviors and relationships (even with a white man). Strayhorn simply had a modest, introverted and, in some ways, enigmatic personality. And his music grew in the same manner. Understandably, the overwhelming verve of Ellington, although with no desire at all to hurt either, nevertheless tended to overshadow both Strayhorn’s personality and his work. It is no wonder that, until the recent studies by van de Leur, criticism has reduced Strayhorn to an emulator of Duke. Evidence of this fact is also given by the scarcity of musical tributes (all post-mortem) dedicated to this neglected figure, compared with dozens of concept-albums--mostly from the early fifties-- which have been instead devoted to Ellington. Therefore, in many respects, StrayHorns is a lone voice and is one of the most significant tributes.The quality of this project is proved also by the fact that Alessandro Fabbri has demonstrated to be familiar with the latest musicological discoveries. Pomegranate and moreover The Hues are in fact two among the recently discovered historical findings. They are rare gems that have been treated as such. Just listen to how the 8 - bars blues theme of The Hues is repeated in always significantly different colors and textures. The different metric and harmonic manipulations that can be heard throughout the cd inform us that this tribute is affectionate but not deferential. The groove that James Cobb had played on the davisian jazz-waltz Teo sustains and propels part of the theme of Isfahan, musical quotation that is then abandoned in order to return to the original 4/4. But the two meters will alternate several times throughout the arrangement. A similar procedure is applied to The Star Crossed Lovers, the manipulations of which concern harmony as well: the gentle and reassuring Db major tonality will become a more piercing Db Lydian. Day Dream, conducted on a quasi-rock rhythm, instead is a skilful reflection upon triads on bass. Other successful passages of writing to be found are those of the virtuoso specials: from the mocking Isfahan to the burning Johnny Come Lately, the latter arranged by Maurizio Giammarco who delivers a page of high formal and narrative meaning. But jazz is in constant alternation between writing and oral tradition: so here are the expressive thematic melodies (whose tones and behaviors cannot be delivered to the staff) interpreted by Maurizio Giammarco as he plays, for istance, A Flower Is a Love Something. Last but not least: the deeply inspired solos of the ensemble's great improvisers like Rossi in Isfahan or Tavoazzi in A Flower Is a Love Something. Nevertheless StrayHorns is most of all a meditation on colors, on timbre and counterpoint combinations. The polyrhythmic watermark of the Intro in Lush Life, where four different meters draw a rarefied overlapping and ever-changing landscape, the evansian orchestrations of Haupe and The Star Crossed Lovers, are, as are many works by Strayhorn, suggestive and slightly wicked watercolors.Maybe the zenith of the whole cd is Take the A Train: slowed down to a ballad, and shortened to the classical ABA form, it is interwoven by a lazy and fascinating riff built on a rare major harmonic mode; this melodic fragment is revealed only at the end of the tune as the beginning of the special originally written by Strayhorn. Then, to close the song, a touching subdominant minor chord. What sagacity, what grace, what balance in this demure two-minute sketch! A cameo showing how deeply Fabbri has understood the poetry of his inspirer, whose music is always a timid suggestion spoken softly, never a tumultuous proclaim. Cato was right: "The deeper the rivers are, the more they flow silently."