Fabrizio Sferra Quartet: Untitled #28 (2013)
Musically, for instance; the sound shaped by drummer Fabrizio Sferra's quartet is one which toys with perceptions of intensity and timbres in a way that appears to be utterly spontaneous, rather than planned. Sferra is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in Italian jazz at the moment. His collaboration with trumpeter Enrico Rava on 2003's aptly titled Full Of Life contributed to placing Sferra's name on many a radar, but it is fair to say that his work with pianist Danilo Rea and bassist Enzo Pietropaoli in Doctor 3 was already worth more than a mention a lustrum earlier.
If the motive behind Doctor 3 was an elegantly ironic approach to mainstream music (be it pop, folk or jazz) with its rendition of classics such as Sting's "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and Neil Young's "Harvest," the key to understanding Untitled #28 is simplicity. The multi-textural dynamics maneuvered by the excellent pianist Giovanni Guidi and Sferra's polyrhythmic drumming perfectly match bassist Joe Rehmer and tenor saxophonist Dan Kinzelman's fine work. The final result is effective, graceful and refined, yet simple in its beauty.
Mentioning the word "color" at the beginning of this review was an almost necessary and unavoidable act , as the record betrays the leader's Mediterranean approach to tonality by adding a certain warmth to the already rich mixture of dilated and convulse tempos. And the extemporized improvisation on tracks like "The Snow Child" and "The Accomplices" is somehow rich in this chromatic value of which Sferra appears to be responsible. His drumming is, at times, almost detached from its mere rhythmic tasks while adding some percussive motifs to the vaporous textures laid down by the brilliant intercourse taking place between the saxophone and bass.
That no instrument seems to lead this extremely fluid discourse is a testament to the record's real added value: the meticulous teamwork, even in a series of ever-changing (and challenging) patterns that make Untitled #28 such a fine album. Composition is king here; the final result, if void of the self-indulgent intricacy (too) many quartets seem to aspire to, makes Untitled #28 an exhilarating and fascinating listen, the kind that might be expected from a superb set of musicians balancing themselves between pianist Keith Jarrett's chimerical standards and a pop-minded, latent aesthetic. The language spoken is essential and simple, but the argument is rich, complex, demanding and utterly colorful.
Track Listing: Skaal; IX Elegia; The Accomplices; Simply Back; Quai des Orfevres; The Snow Child; Scout, Jem and Boo; Sunbathing In Central Park; Yesterday's Sun; The arrangement; Untitled #28; Eye of the Needle; Keep on Walking; All of Us; Goodbye Mr. M. ("All of us" reprise).
Personnel: Fabrizio Sferra: drums; Dan Kinzelman: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Giovanni Guidi: piano; Joe Rehmer; double bass.
Record Label: Via Veneto Jazz