If a label is necessary, Italian saxophonist Ada Rovattiwho is now based in New Yorkcould probably be tagged a straight-ahead jazz artist. On her Airbop (Aria Records, 2005), Rovatti showed off a top shelf set of chops along with first rate writing and arranging skills, to go along with a bunch of soul and an energetic and imaginative way of going after a solo. It may have been mainstream, but there was a definite funk tint to the sound.
With Green Factor, Rovatti takes her funk focus into the Celtic/Irish realm, incorporating bagpipes, violin and pennywhistle into some decidedly groove-oriented jazz. The set features six Rovatti originals and four traditional songs, including the venerable "Danny Boy," and Harold Arlen's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Rovatti's "The Kerry Dance" sets the stage, opening with the hum of the bagpipes before a segue into some citified jazz, with bassist Janek Giwizdala and drummer Obed Calvaire laying down a rock solid foundationas tight as a late-sixties Motown rhythm teamfor the soloists to work over, beginning with a beautiful flugelhorn turn by guest Randy Brecker, that leads into George Colligan's loose and free-flowing piano. Rovatti then takes her turn on tenor sax, smoldering and burning.
The title tune opens with an Irish riff that evokes images of rolling green hills before it goes downtown to a Dublin or Belfast hubbub, with Christian Howes's searing violin singing over a deep dance groove, before Rovatti blows in sounding gritty, gutsy and intense on a take-no-prisoners tenor solo. "I Lost My Wisdom" showcases guest Adam Rogers playing a wild, rock-inflected guitar, leading into another inspired Rovatti solo.
Like the more mainstream Airbop, the novel blend of Celtic, straight ahead and funk of Green Factor is an immediately accessible and engaging set of sounds, one that holds up to, and demands, repeated spins.
The Kerry Dance; The Green Factor; Oh Corko Mio; I Lost My Wisdom; Oh Danny Boy; The Untold Story; Somewhere Over the Rainbow; Wild Colonial Boy; Peter Pan; Your Highness.
Ada Rovatti; Tenor and soprano saxophones; Christian Howes: violin; Janek Gwizdala: electric bass; George Colligan: piano, Fender Rhodes; Obed Calvaire: drums; Randy Brecker: trumpet and flugelhorn (1, 5); Adam Rogers: guitar (3, 4, 6, 8); Ivan Goff: Uilleann bagpipes and pennywhistle (1, 3, 5, 9).
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