This concert date from August ’99 by tenor saxophonist Gianni Basso’s spit–shined 20–something Italian big band does feature the marvelous trombonist / arranger Slide Hampton, but there’s much more to the album than that. First, this is a well–rehearsed ensemble that can hold its head high in any company; second, it is reading superlative charts not only by Hampton (three) but also by Dusko Goykovich (five); and third, there are resourceful soloists aplenty to keep Hampton on his toes (he solos on the last three numbers, “Cotton Tail,” “With a Song in My Heart,” “A Night in Tunisia”). Basso, a smooth and articulate monologist who reminds one of such neo–swingers as Scott Hamilton or Harry Allen (with a pinch of Zoot Sims for added spice), is showcased on his own lyrical composition, “Miss Bo,” pianist Andrea Pozza on Junior Mance’s gospel–flavored “Jubilation.” Others making strong statements include altos Claudio Chiara and Claudio Capurro, trumpeter Fulvio Chiarra, baritone Fulvio Albano, trombonist Luca Begonia and drummer Gian Piero Prina. The various sections — saxophones, trumpets, trombones, rhythm — are front and center on Hampton’s clever arrangement of Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings.” Another highlight is Goykovich’s handsomely framed “Snap Shot,” which provides convincing evidence of the band’s ability to navigate at high speeds. “Cotton Tail,” on the other hand, lopes along more leisurely than usual, but Hampton spurs him on with a “hare–raising” solo (complete with a terse reference to “Laura”), then shows his more romantic nature on the enchanting ballad “With a Song in My Heart” (quoting this time from Gershwin’s “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York”). Basso, Pozza and Prina are Hampton’s solo–mates on “Tunisia,” which closes the concert on an ascendent note. Hampton’s trenchant ad–lib begins with a waggish bow to Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and includes a few bars from “When Lights Are Low.” There’s one split–second anomaly (on my copy of the disc) at the 3:20 mark on “Tunisia” when it sounds as if someone’s cell phone rings, but only for an instant. I’ve listened several times, and it’s always there, but a more accurate identification is impossible. However, it’s no more than a second or so amid more than fifty–six minutes of scintillating big–band Jazz, and hardly worth troubling oneself over. In every other respect, this is an excellent album and is easily recommended.
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