The joyous occasion of this new disc by Italian pianist Antonio Faraò is unfortunately overshadowed by the tragic death late last year of saxophonist Bob Berg, his sideman for this recording. Berg, whose horn accented the bands of Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, and 1980s bands of Miles Davis, made his biggest splash with jazz/rock guitarist Mike Stern. His final recording features some very inspired playing.
Farao, a child prodigy now a jazz sensation in Italy, has slowly entered into the US radar. His Black Inside (Enja 1998) with Tain Watts and Ira Coleman, while not given much notice, remains a solid trio session. Last year’s Thorn boasted an all-star cast of Chris Potter, Jack DeJohnette, and Drew Gress. This session finds him with a European trio plus the American Berg.
Faraò shares the spotlight equally with Berg, arranging tunes to focus not only on his compositions (8 out of the 10 originals), but also on Berg’s soloing. The saxophonist exhibits a Coltrane inspired and very muscular sound on “Andalusia” and “Cat Steps.” Faraò seems satisfied here to accompany. When he does take a solo, it is equal parts Bills Evans and Horace Silver. His classical training affords him the structure, yet his young age draws him into toward the music of Herbie Hancock. On the title track and its accessible pop opening, Faraò favors a fusion light introduction, only to segue into a hard bop workout. His bop-and-switch and the light touch Berg ladles out on “Simple” disguise the intensity behind this music.
The highlight here is Faraò’s composition “Fields,” which he plays both in quartet and solo. This beautiful track sounds as stark as Bobo Stenson and as rhythmical as Bill Evans. The melancholic melody stays with you long after the disc stops turning.