Italian saxophonist Stefano Di Battista could spill a can of paint onto a canvas, only to find he has made a beautiful picture. In other words, every breath that passes through his horn is attractive.
His latest project Round About Roma creates an imaginary cinema score, with strings by the Symphonic Orchestra of Paris, that could have been a 1960's romantic film centered in Rome. Together with composer/arranger Vince Mendoza, Di Battista weaves jazz elements into these well-tempered tracks. Mendoza has created orchestral arrangements for jazz and pop music from John Scofield to Bjork. His most accomplished work being two discs for Joni Mitchell, including last years Travelogue with his string arrangements for Mitchell's re-interpretation of her beloved hits.
Two saxophonists, Art Pepper and Cannonball Adderley, have influenced Stefano di Battista's career. Both of these players incorporate an emotional approach in their playing. Where Pepper would reach for a clarinet, di Battista favors a soprano saxophone. His tone is more luscious than his two heroes, as is evident throughout this disc. Where the prior self-titled Stefano Di Battista (2000) with Elvin Jones and pianist Jackie Terrasson threatened to speak bebop throughout, this albums concept is pure amour. This isn't as much a jazz quartet with string accents as it is a small orchestra that includes piano/bass/drums/saxophone. Mendoza and Di Battista refrain from overlapping music, they intertwine and prudently have either the quartet or the strings drop out for an agreeable mix.
It is a stretch to call this jazz. Let's call it beautiful cinema orchestrations in the tradition of Nina Rota. If there is such a category, this is a near perfect album.
Personnel: Stefano di Battista: Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone; Eric Legnini: Piano; Rosario Bonaccorco: Bass; Andre Cecarrelli: Drums; Vince
Mendoza: Conductor, Arrangements; Symphonic Orchestra of Radio France Les Archets De Paris.