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Piero Umiliani: A Tempo Di Jazz

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Piero Umiliani: A Tempo Di Jazz
Considering how many stylish movies were made in Italy in the 1950s and early 1960s, surprisingly few have jazz or jazz-based soundtracks of note; back at the ranch, jazz was Hollywood's go-to cool music. A handful of composers including Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone included jazz in their palettes but jazz was not their primary inspiration. Piero Umiliani, however, was first and foremost a jazz musician. Two of his soundtracks—for Franco Rossi's Smog (1962) and Mario Monicelli's I Soliti Ignoti (1958), retitled Big Deal On Madonna Street on international release—were among the finest in the contemporary genre. From those two soundtracks, eight tracks featuring Chet Baker were released in 1993 as Italian Movies: Music Of Piero Umiliani (Liuto).

In 2006, interviewed by Baker biographer Matthew Ruddick, tenor saxophonist Gianni Basso, who frequently recorded with Umiliani in the 1950s and 1960s, explained the paucity of jazz soundtracks in Italian movies of the era thus: "Jazz was not that popular in Italy at that time, especially compared with cities like Paris, where many American musicians were living. There was more of a jazz tradition there, in London, in Sweden, in Copenhagen, even in Germany, where jazz musicians played to the US forces. When Chet first came to Italy [in late 1955] with Francy Boland, people wanted to dance the waltz or the tango, there were virtually no jazz clubs. Even in 1959, there were only three jazz clubs in the whole of Milan."

A Tempo Di Jazz—which is not movie related and does not have Baker in the lineup—collects seven tracks recorded by Umiliani in 1959/60. Five of them are alternate takes from Umiliani's rare-as-hens' teeth Tempo Jazz (RCA, 1960), and the cover is a tweak of that for Tempo Jazz. Umiliani, on piano, leads a sextet, two of whose members are heard on the Smog and I Soliti Ignoti soundtracks: Marcello Boschi (alto saxophone, flute) and Bill Gilmore (trombone). The band is completed by Ivan Vandor (tenor saxophone), Beppe Carta (bass) and Roberto Zappulla (drums).

Inevitably, the album owes a considerable debt to American jazz, mostly to the so-called West Coast school of the 1950s. Hardly any European jazz of the time, from Italy or elsewhere, whatever the technical proficiency of the players, had reached the level of maturity and self assurance necessary for it to stand on its own feet. Specifically, given its saxophone/trombone frontline, A Tempo Di Jazz recalls Stan Getz's lyrical and muscular pairings with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. There are moments when one might even be listening to an out-take from the duo's At The Shrine (Norgran, 1955). That is a meant as a compliment, not a put down. Umiliani's composing is the most singular aspect of the album. He went on to score something like 190 movies before he passed in 2001, and his ability to write a good tune was as important to his success as his knack of conjuring atmospheric backdrops.

Track Listing

Marmellata Di Suoni; Tempo Jazz; Battesimo Dell’Aria; Tipi Misteriosi; Verso L’Alba; Tema In Blues; Mezza Cottura.

Personnel

Marcello Boschi
saxophone, alto
Ivan Vandor
saxophone, tenor
Bill Gilmore
trombone
Beppe Carta
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: A Tempo Di Jazz | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Sonor Music Editions


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