Ada Rovatti: Airbop (2005)
Just when you think the mainstream of jazz is getting a little stagnant, along comes a set like Airbop which gives a fresh flow to the style.
Italian-born and now New York-based saxophonist Ada Rovatti plays with soul here. Possessed of a robust tone, she handles her solos with a zest and vibrancy full of surprises, stretching a note like taffy then biting off sweet flurries the next moment. A Berklee alum, the composer/reedwoman based herself in Paris for a number of years, where she performed with the jazz/funk outfit Chance Orchestra. That funk part of her sound carries over here with some catchy grooves"breathing grooves" with a lot of bubbling life.
With the exception of Harold Arlen's "My Shining Hour," all the tunes here are Rovatti originals that show off her strong compositional skills. On her ballad "What We Miss," Rovatti's tenor sounds particularly soulful. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Randy Brecker joins the core quartet on four numbers, and he's never sounded betterbright and full of brassy optimism, complementing the leader's lines when she isn't complementing his.
Rovatti has put together an absolutely first-rate band for Airbop. The rhythm section has a strong, assertive bounce, with pianist Dave Kikowski adding a very attractive sparkle to the arrangements.
On this straight-through exceptionally engaging set, I've got to single out "2-Bros" as a highlight, with Bob Mintzer (Yellowjackets) playing bass clarinet, joining Rovatti and Brecker in the front line, adding a deep, dark chocolate feeling to the tune, while guest percussionist Don Alias brings in a mesmerizing Latin vibe.
One of the top mainstream sets of the year.
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Track Listing: Airbop; Choose Your Life; Shelter Island; What We Miss; My Shining Hour; 2-Bros; One Dollar and 20 Cents; The Others; The Man on the Moon.
Personnel: Ada Rovatti--tenor and soprano saxophones; Dave Kikowski--piano; Ed Howard-- accoustic bass; Ben Perowski--drums. Guests: Jill McCarron--piano (track 7); Randy Brecker--trumpet and flugelhorn (tracks 2,3,4.6); Bob Mintzer--bass clarinet (Track 6); Don Alias--percussion (tracks 3,6); Adam Rogers--guitar--tracks 1,3).