Coming on the heels of another prominent Bird dedication, Anothony Braxton's recently reissued Charlie Parker Project, Parker's Mood is not only a change of pace but a totally distinct look at the music of one of bebop's founding fathers. Whereas Braxton's sprawling work was loose, cantankerous, and abstractly modern, Italian saxophonist Stefano di Battista's collection is strikingly cohesive, focused, and unfailingly true to the tradition. Both aim to revisit compositions written by or associated with Parker, but the outcomes could not be any more different.
Perhaps it's his Old World rootsoften a facile explanation for things that run much deeperbut di Battista's universe is touchingly romantic, nostalgic, and connected with the past. When he takes on a ballad like "Embraceable You," he summons a late night atmosphere with lit candles and quiet contemplation, due in no small part to his delicate, understated alto tone and persistently melodic emphasis. The rhythm section, most prominently featuring pianist Kenny Barron (who takes a suave solo of his own), is supportive but never gets in the way of the leader's vision.
The ghost of Dizzy Gillespie rears its head a couple of times on the opening "Salt Peanuts," an overused tune that remains infectiously enthusiastic; and a funky, upbeat version of "A Night in Tunisia." The rest of the album touches all the bases: blues, swing, a bit of Latin rhythm, more downtempo balladry, and a whole lot of peppery bop. These ten tunes (plus six others which don't appear here) were all recorded in a single day, proof of the band's instant comfort in such familiar, time-tested surroundings. Trumpeter Flavio Boltro steps in on four tracks, most dramatically in muted form on "Hot House," but Parker's Mood is otherwise a classic quartet effort.
While listeners on a quest for radical reinvention are guaranteed to find this friendly collection a disappointment, they will likely be far outnumbered by those who appreciate traditional tunes performed elegantly in their native context. Di Battista has quietly wormed his way into the heart and soul of his long-time herowhom he describes as "the greatest alto player in the world"and the results are proof positive that Bird lives.
Personnel: Stefano di Battista: alto and soprano saxophones; Kenny Barron: piano; Rosario Bonaccorso: bass;
Herlin Riley: drums; Flavio Boltro: trumpet.