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Matteo Sabattini: Dawning

Ian Patterson By

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Perhaps due to New York's dynamism—and no doubt in part the result of the city's pivotal role in jazz's history—New York jazz ensembles are frequently characterized by bold playing and a hard edge that's arguably less common in many European jazz groups. Italian-born alto saxophonist Matteo Sabattini's New York Quintet builds a bridge between a melodic European sensibility and the incisiveness in ensemble playing typical of the metropolis. Sabatini's elegant Old World-meets-New World arrangements are typified by the juxtaposition of his mellifluous alto playing with Obed Calvaire's consistently dynamic drumming, just one engaging aspect of an altogether absorbing set.

Sabattini's rendition of Italian singer/pianist Bruno Martino's bitter-sweet "Estate" is one of the more beautiful readings of a tune previously interpreted by trumpeter Chet Baker, harmonica player Toots Thielemans, guitarists Ulf Wakenius and Vic Juris, and pianists Monty Alexander and Michel Petrucciani. The delightfully spare arrangement throws the spotlight on the saxophonist as well as guitarist Mike Moreno. On Sabattini's impressive debut as leader for the Catalan label, warmth and feeling are common to both soloists and a pleasing feature of the music in general.

Sabattini and Moreno mirror each other in their unhurried approach to crafting a solo, beautifully demonstrated on the title track. Calvaire is a forceful presence here, while bassist Matt Clohesy and pianist Kristjan Randalu offer subtle harmony and counterpoint. Sabattini has a knack for conjuring melodically simple yet deeply lyrical tunes, much like Yellowjackets tenor player Bob Mintzer. Sabattini's compositions, like Mintzer, also contain an inescapable narrative strength, amply demonstrated in the episodic, thirteen-minute "Prism," which sways between pillowy lyricism and more assertive unison playing. Calvaire takes an extended solo of tumbling invention, and the classically tinged intervention of Randalu—in addition to Moreno's fluid and articulate lines—also leave lasting impressions.

"My Journey" and "Distensions" further illustrate Sabattini's ability to build from the simplest of melodic foundations. Moreno's sinewy solo on "My Journey" amply demonstrates why he's been called upon by saxophonists Joshua Redman and Greg Osby, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, trumpeters Nicholas Payton and Terence Blanchard and singer Gretchen Parlato; his deftness of touch, and fluidity of melodic ideas mark him out as one of the finest of the new generation of guitarists. Moreno provides quietly shimmering support on "Distensions," a vehicle for the leader to stretch out a little more.

Sabattini leads from the front on the energetic "Sons of A Mitch," a bop-flavored tune driven by Clohesy's walking bass that nevertheless leaves plenty of space for Randalu and then Clohesy to explore. "The Quiet Before Sunrise" is a seductive ballad colored by Randalu's classical leanings, and features a lovely cameo by another fine guitarist, Norwegian Lage Lund. An original arrangement of Hoagie Carmichael's "The Nearness of You" captures the blend of lyricism, strength and collective intuition that is the hallmark of Sabattini's New York Quintet.

The Fresh Sound New Talent label has produced over 400 recordings. There may have been better releases than Sabattini's Dawning, but right now it's hard to think of one.

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: 2012 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

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