Veteran jazz writer Ira Gitler recognized the immense talent of a then 13-year-old alto saxophonist named Francesco Cafiso upon hearing him at the 2002 Pescara Jazz Festival, writing a glowing article for the Jazz Journalist Association newsletter. Cafiso attended the 2004 International Association for Jazz Education conference in New York, jamming nightly with pianist James Williams, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley, providing convincing proof to packed audiences that Gitler was accurate in his assessment. Since that time, Cafiso has had the opportunity to record for a number of labels as a leader, including two recently issued by different Italian labels.
Happy Time is an ambitious studio date in which the young alto saxophonist is reunited with pianist Riccardo Arrighini, with bassist Aldo Zunino and drummer Stefano Bagnoli rounding out the quartet. Cafiso penned eight originals for the date, though it would be unfair to expect him to be as accomplished a songwriter as he is a player while still in his teens. His explosive opener "Louisiana is dedicated to the late Williams (who died of cancer a few months after his 2004 performances with Cafiso); an "I Got Rhythm variant shows off Cafiso's formidable technique. The loping ballad "She Loves Me was written for his girlfriend, a soft-spoken love song that doesn't overplay its hand. Cafiso stretches outside of his normally bop-oriented music with the tense ballad "Anabel that incorporates a bit of free jazz, kicked off with Arrighini's superb solo introduction. "Blues For Angel , a dark, sauntering blues, honors the leader's father. The influence of Phil Woods is most apparent in Cafiso's "Goodbye Elvin , a memorial to Elvin Jones that wraps with a moving cadenza by its composer, much in the way that Woods finishes a performance of his own "Goodbye Mr. Evans .
Jazz Italiano Live 2006
Jazz Italiano Live 2006 is a more intimate affair, recorded in concert without a piano and focusing primarily on standards and landmark jazz compositions. With guitarist Sandro Gibellini and bassist Zunino providing a fluid rhythm section, Cafiso's brisk interpretation of perennial favorite "Sweet Georgia Brown and his playful, perky treatment of "Well, You Needn't demonstrate a surprising maturity. "Epistrophy , Thelonious Monk's theme song, mixes a soulful quality with a percolating tension under the surface. No matter how well one can play at a fast tempo, a ballad is the acid test for ability as an improviser. In a bossa nova arrangement of "You Don't Know What Love Is , Cafiso makes good use of space in his solo and makes every note count. Cafiso and Gibellini each contribute an original to the date, the saxophonist's a heartfelt ballad and the guitarist's catchy blues that sounds destined to become a set closer.
Cafiso is still a young, developing musician seeking to find his own distinctive voice on his instrument, but he has grown considerably since his debut just a few short years ago. He will definitely be one to watch as his career unfolds.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Louisiana (Dedicated To James Williams); She Loves Me; Happy Time; Anabel; Blues For Angel; Sir Charles; Goodbye Elvin; The Bear.
Personnel: Francesco Cafiso: alto saxophone; Riccardo Arrighini: piano; Aldo Zunino: bass; Stefano Bagnoli: drums.
Jazz Italiano Live 2006
Tracks: Sweet Georgia Brown; The First One; Well, You Needn't; You Don't Know What Love Is; Panta Jazz; Epistrophy.
Personnel: Francesco Cafiso: alto saxophone; Sandro Gibellini: electric guitar; Aldo Zunino: bass.