Jay D'Amico: Tuscan Prelude (2008)
Tuscan Prelude is Jay D'Amico's fourth recording as a leader. Though talk of a combination of classical music and jazz might conjure up sonic images of the Modern Jazz Quartet, a comparison to John Lewis, wouldn't do credit to either D'Amico or Lewis, in spite of the fact that both have a fast, accurate, but delicate touch on the keys. Another pianist, however, whose approach might tangentially resemble D'Amico's could be Vince Guaraldi, both sharing a penchant for direct melodic simplicity. Yet D'Amico is an original. Even though there might be nods to other jazz pianists, he displays clearly increasing sophistication and refinement. For instance, "Theme in Bb minor" starts with a 12/8 Afro-Cuban feel transforming into a salsa rhythm, which changes into an up-tempo swing. All this rhythmic permutation takes place, organically, in a track that is less than four minutes long. The title track uses continually shifting tempos and a melodic dialogue between left and right hand to set the artistic thrust.
D'Amico's trio performance at New York's St. Joseph's in early October, 2008 was an unqualified success. The church, built in 1834, lent an air of "the old country" to the repertoire. It's difficult for a jazz band to play in rooms like churches but D'Amico and brother Greg (bass), with Vinnie Favatta (drums), played with great dynamic control. Despite the multi-faceted nature of many of the pieces, the musicians negotiated each change in dynamics, tempo and mood with effortless grace. In "E Lucevan Le Stelle," an arrangement of Puccini's aria from the opera La Boheme, the audience almost sang along. They later played another Puccini aria, "Nessun Dorma" (No one Sleeps), dedicating it to the late, great tenor Luciano Pavarotti. D'Amico also played his original compositions, "Earth Day Theme" and "The Judge's Decision" (for his mentor Milt Hinton), with the same passion and conviction as the 'time-tested' melodies of Puccini.
Track Listing: Tuscan Prelude; Theme in Bb minor; G minor Ballade; Fuga; Improvviso; Nocturne; Sonata Mvt.1; Mvt. 2; Mvt. 3; Prelude in A minor; Aria in D.
Personnel: Jay D'Amico: piano; Marc Johnson: bass; Ronnie Zito: drums.