Riccardo Brazzale formed the Lydian Sound Orchestra in 1989. His initial inspiration was Miles Davis, but he changed the musical equation by bringing in his own touch, which he calls a "contemporary aesthetical approach.
The Orchestra's first recording, Melodious Thunk (Totem Records, 1993), was a blend of original compositions with selections from Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. Two years later they followed up with Timon of Athens, a suite of Ellington's music, in the midst of which they played Frederick Chopin's "Funeral March.
Though the Orchestra underwent personnel changes in its early years, the line-up has been stable since 2002. The one exception on Back to Da Capo being Alfred Kramer (drums), who replaces Mauro Beggio. Brazzale, who continues to helm the group as arranger and director, wrote all the tunes for this recording, incorporating several styles including bebop, blues and ragtime.
Brazzale documents his skills as arranger and director right through. He finds a comfort zone in both ballads and highflying tunes, getting the Orchestra to strike the right mood and approach and placing the soloists in spots that give the composition a full-bodied, three-dimensional presence.
Very Very Rags and "North-East End Blues are obvious indications of the group's direction. On the first, Kyle Gregory (trumpet) jumps into the melody with the other brass providing the curtain. Paolo Birro (piano) takes over breaking up time with odd meters. The rhythm keeps shifting and the instruments hold short conversations, but when the Orchestra sings, they do it in symphony. The second tune gets deep down into the blues on the part of the trumpet, and then is driven deeper into the hue by Roberto Rossi (trombone).
The fires of bop are stoked on "A Night in Anisia. The tune flies on the wings of the horns and gets into a swinging mood. Rossi fires the first solo salvo, pacing his momentum with a smooth dynamism until Gregory blasts in with trenchant trumpet work. They lock horns, each telling a variation of the musical story. Roberto Bonsilo (alto sax) skews the line and then divines his path in the convoluted notes of a snake charmer. Freedom and structure have made for comfortable bedfellows.
The lyrical side of Brazzale shines on the gentle ballad "All the Things We Would Like to Be, a showcase for Pietro Tonalo (soprano saxophone) and Michele Calgaro (guitar). They never let the moment eclipse their focus, and while Tonalo soaks in the melody, Calgaro adds variation, shifting the harmonic centre with some cutting notes.
The Lydian Sound Orchestra makes music that is inventive and begs attention.
Track Listing: St. Louisine Double Blues; Very Very Rags; Small Hours; A Night With Anisia; All the Things We Would Like to Be; North-East End Blues; Tiens ma main; Bras to Africa; Back to Da Capo.
Personnel: Pietro Tonalo: tenor sax, soprano sax (5); Robert Bonisolo: soprano, alto, and tenor sax; Rosanno Emili: clarinet, baritone sax; Kyle Gregory: trumpet, flugelhorn; Roberto Rossi: trombone; Dario Dusa: tuba; Michele Calgaro: guitar; Paolo Birro: piano; Marc Abrams: bass; Alfred Kramer: drums; Riccardo Brazzale: arranger and director.