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When John Gentry Tennyson's new Cd Europa came across my desk for review, judging from the layout and the rundown of songs (all of which are in Italian)I thought that I just received the soundtrack record to The Godfather , or possibly cocktail music from the Olive Garden ? Fortunately, this CD is neither. As a matter of fact, this disc can be considered a jazz record, or at least a hybrid of sorts; for it does incorporate much of the musical sensibilities of Italy and Spain, as well as borrow from the standard European classical repertoire.
Working within the confines of the piano trio, augmented occasionally by violin and mouth harp, Tennyson plays with skill and authority on this collection of tunes written to suggest the vibrant melodies and syncopations of the music of southern Europe. A native of Texas, Tennyson majored in jazz studies at North Texas State. He has worked with a number of jazz luminaries, including the likes of Eddie Gomez, John Patitucci, and Danny Gottlieb. Like anybody else, Tennyson has his share of influences on his instrument, and if when listening to this disc (particularly to tunes like Milonga Sinistra and Europa ) the name Armando or Anthony pops into your head, it's not necessarily your imagination.
While many of the songs imbue Italian romanticism and melancholy, Tennyson manages to slip in a little unadulterated improvisation here in there, such as in Fortunato ,which is basically an F altered blues done in a light bossa. In diligent fashion, Tennyson gently caresses the keys, as he teaches us the value of dynamics and understatement. The F# maj 7#11 tag used as the intro, ending, and at the end of each chorus, is a very nice touch. In addition, the title cut Europa proves to be an excellent vehicle for Tennyson to really stretch, and sounds quite inspired on this piece. The set closes with a quiet, relaxed solo piano version of Vesna e Zorica , the companion to the ensemble version which can also be heard on this disc. To sum up, this CD is like pizza; it does an excellent job in combining old world Italian customs with new world American ideas. However, if you're a meat and potatoes man, this disc may not be for you.
Track Listing: Preludio; Citta Vecchia; Fortunato; Milonga Sinistra; Europa; Vesna e Zorica; La Mer a Monaco; La Principessa; Preghiera di Vita e della Morte; Vesna e Zorica(reprise)
Personnel: John Gentry Tennyson(piano); Jeffrey Carney(bass); Satoshi Takeishi(percussion); Raul Jaurena(bandoneon); Joyce Hammann(violin); Todd Reynolds(violin); Dana Ianculovici(violin); Charles Adams(violin)Michael Fitzpatrick(cello)
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.