When one thinks of jazz in Italy few names come immediately to mind: Enrico Rava, Stefano Battaglia and maybe even Carlo Actis Dato, but definitely not Quartetto di Lucca, a short lived Modern Jazz Quartet-inspired group from the late 1950s. In 2006, RCA Europe's The Vibe subdivision released the group's only album, originally released in 1962, augmented by three bonus tracks.
Quartetto was founded by double-bassist Giovanni Tommaso, together with a group of like-minded musicians, and was named after their hometown of Lucca in Tuscany. Originally a quintet, it included his brother Vito on piano, Antonello Vannucchi on vibrophone, drummer Giampiero Giusti and guitarist Gaetano Mariani, who left the group shortly after its inception. Two of the bonus tracks include Mariani, so presumably they are from an earlier date.
The music is a mixture of bop standards and original compositions by the group members, and is a bit looser in its arrangements than the music of the Modern Jazz Quartet, with a heavier emphasis on bass lines. It is also closer to hard bop in its sound. The lion's share of solos belongs to the two Tommasos, and their improvisations are the most adventurous. Vibes are featured on a few tracks, and the drummer has an occasional short solo. Giovanno Tomasso's bass playing has a strong classical sensibility and a very unique sound. John Lewis's influence is prominently heard in Vito's playing, while Antonello Vannucchi's sound is lighter than Milt Jackson's.
The group interplay is vaguely reminiscent of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The original compositions are quite lyrical, with a unique sound to them and, with the exception of one blues, are more in the modal vein. Overall this record is not much different than other small group bop LPs from the European scene of the late 1950s and 1960s, but has enough variation to maintain interest throughout.
The sound of the CD is remarkable in its clarity across the entire sound spectrum, and the booklet includes a reproduction of the original LP front and back covers with an English and a French translation of the Italian liner notes. Although not extremely original or groundbreaking, this is an enjoyable recording by a bass-led, MJQ-inspired quartet with a hard bop sound and a European touch that has endured the test of time.
Personnel: Giovanni Tommaso: bass; Vito Tommaso: piano; Antonello Vannucchi: vibes; Giampiero Giusti: drums; Gaetano Mariani: guitar.