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There are times when it seems jazz is hated in America, where it originated. Outside the United States, however, jazz is appreciated as much as folk, classical and other styles. Perhaps this may explain why some Europeans are among the world's best jazz performers.
One of these is Rome native Patrizia Scascitelli, one of the first women in Italy to play jazz. The pianist is at home playing the music that made household names of Don Cherry and David "Fathead" Newman, two of the many jazz musicians Scascitelli has performed with.
Her new release, Close Up , is a collection of eleven original songs that feature a tight rhythm section and exceptional soloists. Scascitelli's adept fingering sets the tone of the all-acoustic album. Although she is the bandleader, Scascitelli seems content to provide the rhythm on most songs, soloing only in a few places.
All the performances are sharp, but special nods are given to Jim Seeley, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn on six tracks; Mark Gross, tenor and alto sax, and clarinet; and fellow Italian Ada Rovatti, tenor sax on four tracks.
Gross and Rovatti share sax duties on "Lament for Harold" and "Samantha's Blues." The former is dedicated to Scascitelli's deceased Siamese cat, whom she loved for nineteen years; the latter is a funky tune that was featured on the pianist's previous solo CD and is a musical portrait of her "sexy" niece (now 21, but 15 at the time of the original recording). Rovatti takes center stage on the delightful "Scott Joplin's Caribbean Walk," a reflection of the King of Ragtime's decision to set his troubled life aside and take a vacation in the Caribbean. The song melds Joplin's own ragtime style with a bit of calypso and Sonny Rollins' hard bop.
Scascitelli and her ensemble go back in time on "Artie's Place," a sassy tribute to Artie Simmons. Jim Seeley offers a sizzling muted trumpet solo that blares at all the right moments. With slick bass work by Bob Bowen and drum play by Carlos Cervantes, this is one of the few cuts on the album where Scascitelli puts herself out front.
Whether she's leading, soloing or in the background, Scascitelli is clearly the glue that holds it togetherwhich is often the case with pianists and keyboardists. She skillfully leads her ensemble from straight jazz to blues, Latin and even bossa nova, the latter represented by "Uptown Bossa," a mellow piece that features Seeley in a Freddie Hubbard-like solo.
Scascitelli wanted the album to have ten songs. She added the eleventh, "Mirella," to honor her best friend, who lives in Rome and loves Brazil. This samba showcases the full ensemble, minus Gross. Cervantes' solo solidifies this spirited tribute, which sums up the overall feeling of Close Up : an album that allows us to lookand listeninside Scascitelli's heart and soul. It's a wondrous journey, with never a dull moment.
Track Listing: Reveries, Lament for Harold, Year of the Tiger, People
Like Us, Samantha's Blues, Scott Joplin's Caribbean
Walk, Artie's Place, Uptown Bossa, Life and Death, No
Way Out, Mirella
Personnel: Patrizia Scascitelli, piano; Jim Seeley, flugelhorn,
trumpet; Mark Gross, alto sax, soprano sax and
clarinet; Ada Rovatti, tenor sax; Bob Bowen, bass;
Carlos Cervantes, drums