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The first time this self-styled atypical jazz orchestra came along with the aptly defined Disordini al Confine, where they traversed a wide swath with an interesting approach. Now they have returned under conductor Andrea Pellegrini, with some changes in the lineup. The orchestra is mainly comprised of students from the La Scuola di Musica Buonamici in Pisa. But they leave no doubt of their skill, as they blend with the professional musicians in the cast. The outcome, once again, is enticing.
The 16-piece band whets the appetite with “Gruppone!” The tune showcases a collective strength that builds on layered tension wrought by flute, horns, drums, and the steadying pulse of the piano; tangents go in different sonic directions, only to converge into a complete edifice within the space of six minutes. The classical side is given over to a tweaking of Verdi’s “Ave Maria.” It opens faithfully but then blooms in the effect of its harmonic scale into full-bodied intensity. My only regret is that it is all so short.
But if there was a feeling of Mingus in the devolution of that tune, the next one leaves no doubt that Mingus continues to lure the band (the Orchestra had three Mingus tunes on its first album). “Nostalgia in Times Square” frolics in the pianism of Davide Dente and the drumming of Daniele Paoletti and Riccardo Jenna, and it even finds a convincing voice in the sedate bass clarinet of Luigi Pieri. And it must be said that Pellegrini’s arrangement gives it the timbre, and the joust, both in the solo and ensemble passages.
The final essay comes in a “Nevermore” that soars and flies, exhilarating in its compass. And as the band sets up that tapestry, the soloists—Piero Bronzi on alto sax, Johnny Grieco on tenor, Marco Bartalini on trumpet and Mirco Capecchi on bass—add color for a vivid impression.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.