True story. There is a very picky, conservatory-trained bassist in the immediate vicinity, visiting from over the pond. She has extremely broad taste in music, but unyielding on fundamentals. Despite a childhood exposure to jazz of all kinds, she literally winces when a lot of big names, living and deceased, pour forth from the speakers. "Chartreuse" was playing. Said bassist, off in another room, makes a beeline and asks, "Who is that?" "You like?" "Yeah, sort of sounds Chris Thile
-ish." Bassist makes a note of recording, grins, walks away. That rarely happens. It is both an event and high praise.
Well, it happens that Gaetano Letizia studied the Schillinger System (which influenced Toshiko Akiyoshi
and ostensibly mathematises everything in music) and after attending Kent State, went on to Baldwin Wallace, where he studied composition and classical guitar. Good musicians are empathic that way. They have ears and can hear the difference. It just so happens that Letizia's "multi-genre jazz suite" is the real thing. Performed by an excellent quintet, the music is original, compelling, listenable, accessible, and, above all, pretty. It both washes over and involves you, music for the head and the heart. Of course, the tunes are all originals, and with titles like "Genrecide," surprise is to be expected. Bob Esterle on saxophones recalls a lot of influences. He often carries the melody with Letizia, but gets plenty of solo time too, as on "Back and Blue" and "Paradise Found." He has a contemporary sound, to be sure, but plays like a bopper at heart, yet is capable of all the colors that different horns offer him. Letizia, of course, is everywhere. He has an awful lot of Wes Montgomery
in him, but Pat Martino
too. It would be difficult to overstate both Letizia's chops and versatility, with straight ahead, funk, blues, Latin, and, oh, he can fly too. When Letizia really locks in with drummer Bill Ransom, it is hard to keep still and, if there is an unsung hero here, it is Ransom, about whose time is never any doubt. Bassist Matthew DeRubertis is in there, although understated. Similarly, Theron Brown, who not only comps like a capable jazz pianist, but manages to sound very much like himself on the B3, occasionally entering with a bubbling chorus that inevitably leaves you wanting more.
There is something for everyone here. The music is eclectic in the best sense. "Orange Sunset" goes out like an old-fashioned shout chorus. Maybe it is.
Chartreuse; Expanding Reality; Back & Blue; Paradise Found; Genrecide; Blue Ionosphere; Punch Drunk; Wandering;