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Live Reviews

Umbria Jazz: Days 4-6, July 13-15, 2009

By Published: July 20, 2009
In the first tune, for example, Galliano made the audience's impatience (the band was more than 10 minutes late) fade instantly when he began playing the sobbing ballad theme "Chat Pitre." Bona entered just behind on bass guitar, then Rubalcaba and Penn joined the fray. The pianist took the first solo, a splendid lyrical tapestry capped by a neat little upper-range descent with sixteenth-note figures in the middle. Galliano's solo was deeply haunting, Bona playing lovely bass droplets behind him. Not to be left out, Penn introduced a unique drumming technique: His right hand played crash cymbal with a brush, while his left tapped on a small pair of bongos.

Over a dozen tunes, Rubalcaba in particular established a pattern (beginning with his work on "Para Jobim"), repeating galloping descents from the top of his keyboard so that they became dominant motifs in his solos, as well as aggressive, even ferocious figures that evoked Cecil Taylor

Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
. On "Premier Lessa" and "Liberty Waltz," he showed a predilection for deliberately taking himself and Galliano off-time. Bona, too, set up a recurring methodology on "Liberty Waltz" with a funky bass line that he played with such adroit glisses that the bass guitar sounded fretless; it was a genuine surprise to see the frets gleaming when Bona danced a bit on "Saranita."

Penn had less consistency in his technique and sound, but his rhythmic stability defied reason. The drummer took a slow burn solo in "Para Jobim" and a savage, unbounded one on "Laurita" that were united by their unfaltering hold on the beat—even on the accents.

The leader was the wild card. Galliano could mix a rock groove with a European folk sensibility ("Crepuscule"), play Coltrane-ish harmonies in a carnival-like mood ("Laurita"), and on the encore even joined with Rubalcaba to unfurl a Bach piece. On "Hymns," he even burst forth with a breakneck, bluegrass-style line that dazzled.

It was a performance of sustained exhilaration, although the sustained part was a common problem in Umbria's "Round Midnight" shows; like this one, the performances start late and end much too late, nearly 2 AM—closing time for the city's pedestrian access. Enjoyable as they are, it would be much more so if spectators didn't have to rush to get home afterwards.

July 14—AACM Great Black Music Ensemble, Program 1

Here in Italy, jazz and many other musics—blues, soul, funk—are frequently lumped together into the category of "Black music." That broad label likely delights members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), who decided long ago that their output wouldn't be called "jazz" but "Great Black Music." Indeed, the 20-member big band that trombonist and scholar George Lewis brought to the festival is called the "AACM Great Black Music Ensemble." From Tuesday, July 14 until Thursday, July 16, Theatro Morlacchi belonged to them for six concerts, two per day.

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