El Gallo Rojo's first releases were their version of klezmer music recorded with recognized American artist Chris Speed. As their catalog grew the various bands invited other known players, Gallo & The RoostersGary Lucas, Mickey FinnCuong Vu, East RodeoMarc Ribot, to plays music from chamber jazz to freely improvised orchestral music to traditional jazz trios.
As the label developed, the members became stars themselves. Drummer Zeno de Rossi's tribute to drummer Shelly ManneThe Manne I Love! (2010)is a modern classic. Pianist Franco D'Andrea, an established name, released the stellar Traditions And Clusters (2012), besides three other Rojo discs. The scene that developed is not unlike the Downtown NY movement in the 1990s or today's Brooklyn collaborations. Experimentation yields new sounds and jazz heroes like bassists Danilo Gallo and Stefano Senni who perform "A Dot In The Sky" in a three-bass trio here with Giulio Corini. The music on this celebration opens with the Mexican themed (of course) "El Gallo Rojo" led by guitarists Simone Massaron and Enrico Terragnoli and saxophonists Achille Succi and Francesco Bigoni. From there, they play a tribute to Americana and Tim Berne-inspired piece, "Relaxed Contractions," the orchestral "Brood On," and the solo piano piece "Inside" by Dmitri Sillato.
The sweep is far reaching and ambitious but these now established players have a great thing going.
Cinema, Circus & Spaghetti (Sex Mob Plays Fellini: The Music of Nino Rota)
The Royal Potato Family
Long out-of-print now, producer Hal Willner's Amarcord Nino Rota (Hannibal, 1980) was a touchstone for many Downtown jazz artists to explore film music and especially the unique music Rota created for the films of Italian director Federico Fellini. Since then, San Francisco's Club Foot Orchestra released Plays Nino Rota: Selections From la Dolce Vita (Rastascan, 1998)
Where Willner recorded different artistsJaki Byard, Bill Frisell, Carla Bley, and Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter and arranger Steven Bernstein applies his jazz-meets-vaudeville band Sexmob to Rota's Fellini music. His band of saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen have covered film music before. They recorded a Sexmob Does Bond (Ropeadope, 2001), in addition to covers of Nirvana, Duke Ellington, The Rolling Stones, and ABBA.
Bernstein and crew may have their finest recording to date. Where previous disc reveled in their over-the-top antics, Plays Fellini is the most civilized the Sexmob has ever been. Like their Theatre & Dance (2000) tribute to Ellington, there is more curtesy and les camp here. But of course, you can only keep Bernstein from monkeying around for so long.
Han Bennink & Uri Caine
Dutch drummer Han Bennink in duet with pianist Uri Caine is a knockout combination. This disc recorded in 2010 at The Bimhuis in Amsterdam is a live date that roils and boils, while the pair toils.
Then again, Bennink has punched up many a piano duet, be they with Aki Takase Teo For Two (Intakt, 2011), Cecil TaylorSpots, Circles, And Fantasy (FMP, 1989), Steve BeresfordB + B (ICP, 2002), Simon NabatovChat Room (Leo Records, 2003), or his old friend Misha Mengelberg. Bennink is neither intimidated by nor a menace to his partners.
Uri Caine brings an Americana jazz tradition to this date. He speaks in a blues language that favors swing sprinkled into the improvised music. The disc opens with Bennink's sticks on drums, and maybe the floor, raising the energy level and inviting Caine to race. But this isn't a competition as much as musical wordplay. Speed and improvisation are matched with song sampling and dissonance.
Caine who has traversed the worlds of jazz, classical, and electronic music, has a thirst for mixing and matching styles. Here he maintains a jazz tradition. The pair circle each other, never at a loss for ideas. The one cover tune, Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" gets chopped and hammered but is easily recognized, albeit as almost pure mischief.