Italian reed player Daniele D'Agaro creates music full of broad, sweeping gestures. His tenor saxophone sound is gigantic, with a warm and wide vibrato, and an attack that runs from the gentle caressing of notes to extended shards of intentional overblowing. His clarinet playing has the same command of sound, with a massive, piercing tone and a conception that integrates the entire history of the instrument. On Chicago Overtones
, which covers a wide scope ranging from Ellington and Leadbelly to swirling free playing, D'Agaro seems to embrace the history of the music.
Chicago has produced some of the most distinctive music in jazz history, going back to the brawling sounds of the "Austin High gang" in the late 1920s, followed by an idiomatic, take-no-prisoners brand of bebop. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through today, Chicago has been the source of exploratory jazz that respects the past while innovating, producing great music by the likes of Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. And in the middle of that heady mix is where you'll find D'Agaro's current quartet. They jump right in with the anthemic, catchy "Chicago Beer Coaster," a no-nonsense hard bop tune characterized by the edgy swing of bassist Kent Kessler and veteran drummer Robert Barry. D'Agaro's tenor is relentless, whether through biting riffs or expressionistic squealing.
While D'Agaro displays considerable prowess and passion, trombonist Jeb Bishop is in many ways the most interesting improviser in this band. On tunes like "Barry K," Bishop cooks, and on post-Ornette explorations like "Ultramarine #13" and the collectively improvised "Dog Nose In The Kitchen," he demonstrates an effective use of dynamics and tonal variation.
This album also includes successful explorations of folk material and Ellingtonia. In fact, the group's rendition of Duke's "Melancholia" is quite notable, with D'Agaro recalling Ben Webster. Other times, D'Agaro leaps unpredictably from snarling swing to feverish overblowing. With his broad tenor sound and the quartet's tenor sax-trombone front line, this music may sound quite like a 1966 Archie Shepp record. Nevertheless, Chicago Overtones remains a vigorous, thoroughly engaging modern jazz document.
Personnel: Daniele D'Agaro, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Jeb Bishop, trombone; Kent Kessler, bass; Robert Barry, drums.