Italy was the source of inspiration that gave semblance to composer, arranger and pianist Jay D'Amico's 2001 recording of Ponte Novello
(CAP). He went back to Italy and, as with the earlier visit, found that he was stimulated enough to write more music.
D'Amico became interested in playing the piano after listening to the music of Frederick Chopin and drawn to jazz after seeing an Oscar Peterson performance on television. While his compositions are redolent of his classical bent D'Amico knows just how to invest jazz harmony and swing to give them extra scope. This not only makes the music more absorbing, but also shows off his strengths as an arranger and, more strategically, as a pianist. He knows just how to let a tune gain momentum and swing, grabbing hold of a strong emotional cord along the way.
"Movement 2" is a solo piece and the rest are trio outings. His core band has Ronnie Zito on drums and Marc Johnson on bass, however in opting for a different approach D'Amico uses his brother Greg D'Amico (bass) and Vinnie Favata (drums) on "Aria in D."
The companionship of classical music and jazz is warmed by the alluring melodies. Classical music is the take-off point and, once the mood has been established, the composition is reshaped and jazz fills the air as the band takes off. There are no complex avenues to investigate as they keep their vision compact and clear for a beautiful distillation of both streams of music.
D'Amico is a facile pianist. His sensitivity for classical music and his heart for jazz are traits which are in evidence throughout the disc. "Tuscan Prelude" has him playing with a ripe sweetness that gets swinging when Zito and Johnson come in. The transformation is smooth, with D'Amico improvising on the melody and emphasizing the chords. The trio shows that it can turn a tune on a note and make it resonate.
"Aria in D" is a pirouetting ballad, D'Amico's playing lithe and graceful with an undercurrent of swing. While the jazz motifs are not as pronounced as some of the other tracks, it is still a pleasing tune and a fine closer to an album that should delight many.
Personnel: Jay D'Amico: piano; Marc Johnson: bass (1-10); Ronnie Zito: drums (1-10); Greg D'Amico: bass (11); Vinnie Favata: drums (11).