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Trumpet and sax pairings often make for some of the most enjoyable jazz. The Rocco John Group, venturing back into the sounds of the 1960s and '70s, keep that thought alive.
Saxophonist Rocco John Iacovone studied with Lee Konitz and has worked with Sam Rivers. The group has performed together 11 years. The other members are Michael Irwin on trumpet, Aaron Keane on bass and Dalius Naujokaitis on drums and percussion. Iacovone plays his usual alto, as well as soprano sax on some selections.
"Bass Talk," a tribute to deceased bassist Dennis Irwin, opens with sax and trumpet in unison. They split with Iacovone leading on the alto sax, while Irwin softly plays underneath before bowing out entirely. Naujokaitis varies his play throughout the solo, during which Iacovone makes his horn squeak, squeal and flow through some highs. Irwin comes back in with a solo of his own. One line is complemented by a powerful roll on the snare. Keane and Naujokaitis enjoy solos as well.
"Bach to Bird" is one track that goes a bit off the beaten path. Iacovone counts classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach and jazz legend Charlie "Bird" Parker among his influences. This eclectic selection stirs a bit of both. The opening melody has the sax and the trumpet in a classically styled duet, each instrument independent of the other. Then, the song shifts into a vintage jazz number. The sidemen jam with vigor behind the leads. Later, they each solo.
The album includes two suites. The first, "Devotion," is influenced by John Coltrane. The four movements convey the same ideas with different expressions. The other suite is "Freedom Theme," which accomplishes the same in three movements, but expressing a different emotion.
Devotion's 11 tracks are original compositions. All but a few clock in at more than five minutes, totaling almost 80 minutes of music. The quartet works well as a unit, but also allows plenty of room for individual expression.
Track Listing: Riffin' For Eric; Bass Talk; Bach to Bird; Cy-Cology; Devotion Suite I; Devotion Suite II And III; Devotion Suite IV; Mischievous Mystic; Freedom Theme I And II; Freedom Theme III; Dreams.
Personnel: Rocco John Iacovone: alto and soprano saxophones; Michael Irwin: trumpet; Aaron Keane: bass; Dalius Naujokaitis: drums and percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.