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Matteo Sabattini: Dawning

Dan Bilawsky By

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A sense of melody seems to be sacrificed in a lot of modern jazz these days, as newcomers try to get some press as the next big thing by subscribing to a stranger-is-better aesthetic. Matteo Sabattini is a rare exception, an alto saxophonist whose music is unique in its provision of comfort and a natural sense of melodic lyricism, while still presenting challenging ideas, along with aggressive rhythmic and harmonic ideals that constantly surprise.

His New York Quintet features some of the greatest talent to emerge in the new millennium, like guitarist Mike Moreno and drummer Obed Calvaire, and proves to be one of the most complete and complementary units heard in recent memory. Nobody phones it in on this session, and every part is integral to the success of these pieces. Moreno's signature swells and semi-liquid, seductive tone are a perfect match for Sabattini's sound, and the guitarist can occasionally take a Kurt Rosenwinkel-esque direction when soloing over some excitable rhythm work ("My Journey"). Calvaire has already become one of the most important drummers of his generation and he shows no signs of slowing down. He can drive a band in a swing setting and back a bass solo with subtle brush work ("Sons Of A Mitch"), slam away with the best of them ("Estate"), accentuate an aggressive attitude with some jittery grooves ("Dawning"), and deliver some modern, militaristic snare work ("Prism"), all with equal aplomb.

While it's sad to say, there's often a sense that the bassist isn't an equal partner in these types of settings and that couldn't be further from the truth when discussing Matt Clohesy's contributions here. Clohesy often works in tandem with pianist Kristjan Randalu, as the pair provides direction to the entire ensemble, but he also acts as a foil, allowing Sabattini to shine ("Estate"). At other times, Clohesy locks in with Calvaire, creating a powerful rhythmic undercurrent for Sabattini's songs. While Randalu is the least recognizable name on this roster, his contributions speak for themselves. His touch is tender, yet assured, and his work reflects the mood of every piece. Each note he plays on "The Nearness Of You"—the penultimate track, despite being incorrectly listed as the final number—is like a single rain drop gently landing on a pond; but he can also show a more aggressive sense of purpose when other pieces call for it.

With this much talent, it might be assumed that Sabattini's own gifts would be eclipsed, but that never happens. The beauteous-to-bold duality of his sound makes him one of the most exciting and promising alto saxophone up-and-comers on the New York scene. While the Italian-born Sabattini has been working in the bustling Big Apple since 2002, Dawning—his second album, following 2006's independently released Tidal Waves—marks his debut as a leader for a label with broader distribution, and it was clearly worth the wait.

Track Listing: Estate; Dawning; Prism; My Journey; Distensions; Sons Of A Mitch; The Quiet Before Sunrise; The Nearness Of You.

Personnel: Matteo Sabattini: alto saxophone; Mike Moreno: guitar; Lage Lund: guitar (7); Kristjan Randalu: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Obed Calvaire: drums.

Title: Dawning | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

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