is an elegant solo piano recording that pays tribute to one of the great jazz composers of our time, Benny Carter. The pianist, Gene DiNovi, has chosen ten of Carter’s compositions, ranging from the 1930s to the 1990s, and has woven each in a subtle tapestry of long, graceful lines. DiNovi’s left hand is one of the wonders of modern jazz piano, his is low-key, melodic approach that far surpasses traditional accompaniment. At times, DiNovi seems to be weaving two lead voices and a well developed bass line that sings as a third voice. This is subtle, complex piano that gracefully draws from both jazz and classical traditions.
A little background is in order. Benny Carter is renowned not only as a composer but also as a big band leader, alto saxophonist, and trumpeter. His big bands and his arrangements for big bands have been long admired in the jazz world. No history of 20th century big band jazz is complete without a significant section on Carter. In addition, his recordings with Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson are landmarks in the history of small group jazz. His involvement with both big bands and small groups has been consistent through the years, producing a huge body of high quality work in both mediums. It is not an exaggeration to say that as an alto saxophonist his peers have been, and are, few.
Gene DiNovi was a young on- the-scene pianist in New York jazz from the 1940s through the 1960s. The list of who he played with during that period includes the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Boyd Raeburn and Joe Marsala. His recordings with Lester Young and Chuck Wayne, are especially prized by Prez fans. In the 1970s, DiNovi left New York to live in Toronto where he continues to develop and synthesize his extraordinary range of musical styles.
Souvenir presents a pianist who sounds like a modern, more introspective Teddy Wilson. This may seem like an odd statement, but both pianists have absorbed the music of their time at such a deep level that all of the different styles have somehow entwined into a single voice. It’s not an exaggeration to say that on this disc DiNovi has hit that level, which is a level of mastery that few jazz pianists reach. He gracefully explores the traditions of jazz piano in his low-key, after-hours style. There’s no flash or pretense here, there’s no need for it. DiNovi takes the music at a pace that accentuates the harmonic beauty and graceful construction of Carter’s compositions. DiNovi’s version of "When Lights Are Low" and "Blues In My Heart" are highlights of this exquisite recording. In short, Souvenir is a subtle masterpiece of solo jazz piano.
Personnel: Gene DiNovi, solo piano.