Roberto Magris Europlane: Check-In (2005)

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Roberto Magris Europlane: Check-In
Here's a tight, swinging album by a group of world-class musicians who are all but unknown here in the States. Pianist Roberto Magris, from Trieste, Italy, is the leader, and his quintet, Europlane, is so named because its members hail from four European countries. The front line consists of tenor/soprano saxophonists Tony Lakatos (Hungary) and Michael Erian (Austria) backed by Magris, bassist Robert Balzar (Czech Republic) and drummer Gabriele Centis (Italy). A third Italian (I presume), conguero Fulvio Zafret, is added on the second of four Magris originals, "African Mood.

Lakatos, perhaps the only one whose name may strike a chord with American listeners, and Erian sound much alike (Lakatos has a slightly heavier tone), but they're easy to identify, as Lakatos is always on the right channel, Erian on the left. Magris, who is comfortable playing inside or out, does some of both, while Balzar and Centis are notably perceptive and squarely on the mark.

Lakatos and Erian set the anything-goes mood with some free-wheeling fours to introduce the standard "I Remember You, but it's Magris who takes it from there, skittering across the keyboard for a dynamic chorus or two before Erian, then Lakatos re-enter the fray with powerful statements of their own. The next four numbers are Magris originals—the minor-key "Blues for My Sleeping Baby, undulating "African Mood, luscious "Luci Lontane and busy, boppish "What Blues? (on which Magris fashions a tasteful solo worthy of Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Barron, and other contemporary masters).

Lakatos and Erian, who are at home in any framework, switch from tenor to soprano on "African Mood. Erian sits out on the standard "Why Did I Choose You, on which Lakatos kindles memories of the late Ben Webster with his breathy tenor solo, and returns on soprano to counterbalance Lakatos' heavier sound on Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You, as he had on "Luci Lontane. The quintet closes on a buoyant note with Gino Paoli's "Che Cosa C'è," described in Bill Milkowski's liner notes as a "lovely Italian pop anthem.

Even though these gentlemen are virtually anonymous and reside on the far side of the Atlantic, musical talent is an equal opportunity donor that overlooks ethnic and geographic boundaries. There are 58 minutes of superlative cutting-edge jazz on this album, and they're well worth hearing.

Track Listing: I Remember You; Blues for My Sleeping Baby; African Mood; Luci Lontane; What Blues?; Why Did I Choose You; I Concentrate on You; Che Costa C (58:04).

Personnel: Tony Lakatos, Michael Erian, tenor, soprano sax; Roberto Magris, piano; Robert Balzar, bass; Gabriele Centis, drums; Fulvio Zafret (3), congas.

Record Label: Soul Note

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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