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Ada Rovatti: Disguise

Dan McClenaghan By

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An initial spin of saxophonist Ada Rovatti's Disguise says she hasn't lost a step since 2009's The Green Factor (Piloo Records). There's still the judicious funk grooves, the tight arrangements, and catchy and distinctive melodies that make for an engaging and edifying listening experience. And she's still a wonderfully soulful saxophonist.

These are quintet, quartet and sextet offerings. In small group jazz outings, there has to be something that sets the effort apart. With Rovatti—especially on Disguise—that "something" is her arrangements, beginning with "Ghost Stories," one of eight (out of ten tunes) Rovatti originals. Bassist Janek Gwizdala, drummer Dana Hawkins and pianist Oli Rockberger lay down a terrific groove. Trumpeter Miles Davis, in his 1980's mode, would have loved this. His muted horn would have fit right in contemporary funk; but the secret here is Rovatti's sax joined by flutist {Anne Drummond}} for some ghostly harmony, playing a very memorable unison melody. Drummond is spirited in her solo, and makes an argument for more flute-in-the-front line outings. Rovatti doesn't step out until three and a half minutes in. She smolders beautifully in front of the shimmer of Rockberger's electric keys.

"Alone in Traffic" is surprisingly upbeat, considering the title. Maybe the composer (Rovatti) enjoys time alone on the expressways. She is joined here by trumpeter Randy Brecker, with his expansive, cool tone. If Brecker is cool, Rovatti is hot. Her solo cranks the thermostat up fifteen degrees in front of the controlled stumble of the drums and bass.

"TBA" features Rovatti on soprano sax. Her tone is clean, gorgeous—not always the case with the "straight horn." And her front line partner, Zach Brock on violin, gives the tune a sharp modern edge. His sound, playing alongside Rovatti, sounds like electronic spicing rather than singing strings. Stepping out on his solo he sears it, with a stretchy, elastic, brash sound. A funky, fabulously-arranged gem of a tune.

Two familiar non-originals are included. Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," with a lonely, late night three minute intro by Rovatti on tenor. This is a quartet, the saxophonist and the rhythm section, and Rovati shows she can play the classic ballad with loads of emotion, with the rhythm guys flying free when she steps out. The there's "Stairway to Heaven," from the Led Zepplin songbook. She joined here by Randy Brecker again, with Adam Rogers on guitar (if it's Led Zepplin, you've got to have a guitar) on a fairly straight forward, very jazzy turn on the song.

The disc closes with ballad full of contemplative joy, "Gentle Giant." Rovatti's tenor has a classic, expressive robustness. Could this be an Ode to Randy Brecker, Rovatti's husband and partner in music? Might be.

Track Listing: Ghost Stories; Alone In Traffic; TBA; Smile--Intro (sax solo) Smile; Moving Forward; Halfway; Tripping Step; Stairway To Heaven; Gentle Giant.

Personnel: Ada Rovatti: tenor and soprano saxophones, composer/arranger; Janek Gwizdala: bass; Dana Hawkins: drums; Leo Genovese: piano (2, 3, 4, 8); Oli Rockberger: piano (1, 6, 10); Adam Rogers: guitar (9); Zach Brock: violin (3, 8); Anne Drummond: flute (1, 6); Randy Brecker: trumpet (2, 6, 9); Dean Brown: guitar (10).

Title: Disguise | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Piloo Records and Productions LLC

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