This is an Italian crew playing music of Italian pedigree, and playing it with an impeccably contemporary jazz flair. Five of the nine tracks are by Gesualdo da Venosa, a post-Renaissance composer whose dates are 1560–1613. The remaining four tracks were inspired by Gesualdo but composed by conductor/arranger Corrado Guarino, except for "Itene," by saxophonist Tino Tracanna. Guarino also arranged the Gesualdo pieces.
Jazz has been borrowing from classical music for decades, but seldom has anyone gone back as far as the 16th century. Indeed, you might consider an Italian madrigal composer an unlikely source of inspiration for modern jazz musicians. But the press packet explains that Gesualdo was "at the crossroads between modal and tonal conceptions of Western music." And the liner notes further explain that the modal/tonal encounter is "strikingly evident in Afro-American music." Jazz and baroque therefore have something to offer one another. It makes sense. I’ve often heard hints of pre-modern harmony in the music of trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, for instance.
The instrumentation chosen for this project is quite similar to the "double quartet" used by saxophonist Ted Nash on his brilliant CD Rhyme & Reason(Arabesque, 1999). Hip jazz tempos and time feels — always latin- or funk-derived, never swing — coexist with bona fide early chamber music. Strings play background lines behind soloists in the manner of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Maria Pia De Vito is clearly a trained classical singer but can scat with the best of them, as she does on "Sol," "Chi," and "Sì gioioso mi fanni i dolor miei." And Tracanna’s tenor and soprano solos are consistently riveting, perfectly suiting the mood of each piece. Claudio Pontiggia’s deft French horn solos also deserve mention. All the while, the jazz/baroque juxtaposition is never forced or contrived. The elements inform one another seamlessly, almost imperceptibly.
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