Umbria Jazz Winter: Orvieto, Italy, December 28, 2012 - January 1, 2013
Batiste does know well the jazz tradition, and the complexities of classical piano andanti fuoriosi, and he is not at all shy when it comes to fully showing his dexterity, with a faux-nonchalant persona.
His whispered, warm version of "Summertime," rhythmically heightened by the repetitive tambourine rhythm, was preceded by an engagingly humorous version of "New Orleans' Blues," emphasizing the boisterous and mocking phrasings of Morton's original piece. The childlike happiness of "You Are My Sunshine" followed a fast-paced "Rondo' Alla Turca" quote, surprising everyone.
Gino Paoli and Danilo Rea
Gino Paoli's unique voice and romantic lyrics have left immortal traces in the history of the Italian songbook. His duo with Danilo Rea mixed this tradition with that of top jazz piano which Rea represents.
This may be why even the most famous songs of Paoli's repertoiresuch as "Sapore di sale" and "Il cielo in una stanza"had a syncopated tinge, through Rea's inserts and contrapuntal obbligatos, which stressed actuality and empowered their romanticism.
The songs selected for this concert included other jazz standardsa mellow version of "Time After Time"where Paoli's both smoky and delicate voice dialogued with Rea's exquisite pianissimos.
Rea's solo piano masterful arrangement of De André's "Bocca di rosa" developed around difficult, complex, Bach-sounding passages, and was followed by Paoli's vocal version of "La canzone dell'amor perduto." His vibratos heightening the excitement and melancholia of a young love ended too soon.
The playful "La gatta," with Rea's keys mimicking the cat's tip-tapping walk on the roof described in the song paved the way for a touching "Ne me quitte pas," built over loud, memorable dynamics. Ranging from Edith Piaf's masterpieces up to the Italian classic "T'aggio voluto bene," the concert was like a string of pearls, shining in perfect equilibrium.
Kurt Elling's sets have the beauty of a majestic architectural structure whose smallest details have been planned with extreme care, in order to fit together with almost organic naturalness.
In the smooth unfolding of Elling's masterful vocals and in his group's impeccable sounds one sees the smooth equilibrium which only comes when talent, passion and endless preparation come together. Yet, once on stage, what remains of this meticulous work is just Elling's warm, embracing voice, reaching surprising highs and lows from the opening of "Come Fly with Me," and a band that shines around him.
The subtle exchanges between drummer Quincy Davis and Kurt Elling on "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas," the soft bass texture created by Clark Sommers on "I'm Satisfied" and John McLean's incredibly complex guitar solo on "Estate," were just some examples of this memorable formation.
Peculiarly interesting were also the dialogue, clearly made out of a long-lasting friendship, between Elling and pianist Laurence Hogbood, especially evident in "A House is Not a Home" where Hogbood surprised everyone with a piano solo of sophisticated tenderness.
Elling's vocal style and technique made his unique vocal timbre even more remarkable by alternating softness with speedy scat passages and spiritual tones with bouncy high notes.
Top Musica Jazz 2012
The celebration of the best musicians of the year, selected by the Italian jazz magazine Musica Jazz, was a great opportunity to reveal some of the most promising talents of contemporary Italian jazz.
Pianist Enrico Zanisi, winner of the Musica Jazz best new talent prize, played with his trio featuring bassist Francesco Ponticelli and drummer Alessandro Paternesi. Zanisi's compositions disclosed a poetic style, echoing Bill Evans sonorities with a touch of more abstract McCoy Tyner. The arrangements seemed conceived in order to highlight as well the sensitive choices of Paternesi's drumming, already visible in his collaborations with bassist Enzo Pietropaoliand Zanesi's smart, original variations on bass.
Trombonist Mauro Ottolini (winner of the Musica Jazz prize for best musician) played a memorable set with Franco D'Andrea's group (which was awarded the Musica Jazz best album of the year prize). Their music, in a way similar to their gentle presence on stage, had an ascetic quality to it that made one pay even more attention to its elegance, to the stylish choices of register, as well as the perfect blossoming of the solos throughout the performance, which closed the festival with the delicacy of a calligraphic touch.
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