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In March of 2007, Lewis Porter played at the Leeds International Jazz Research Conference, where he was the keynote speaker. The most vivid memory of the hour-long set was a version of "Body and Soul that traveled the space-ways, the journey back to the head near miraculous.
The version on Italian Encounter functions similarly, and it demonstrates a certain freedom that pervades this July 2006 concert recorded in Siena, Italy. The small utterances at the outset of the tune, during Porter's slow, fine and mellow introduction, exemplify the trio's investment in each sonic detail, not to mention the excellence of the recording.
When the other two members enter into their traditional roles, the intense dialogues of Bill Evans' groups are invoked; each musician wears the weight of history lightly but audibly as a note that Porter plays might be echoed by bassist Furio Di Castri, drummer Fabrizio Sferra filling out each elongated phrase with tastily brushed accents. Di Castri switches from high to low register at the bridge, a very nice timbral modulation to accompany the key change.
"Cherokee Variation is just that, a treatment of the famous changes without the head and with some fascinating time shifts, but it captures the trio in bebop mode. Porter's strength lies in his harmonic conceptions, not necessarily in his Bird and Bud legacy, but his timing also produces stunning results. A chord resounds with a thwack from Sferra, the build and sudden impact rendering any previous scalar misfires superfluous.
The originals here are equally engaging. The Monkish "Blues for Siena gets the program off to a traditional start and is that "Tangerine quoted? No such restrictions are placed on "Wine Hot, a vehicle for Di Castri to brandish a bit of reverb, seducing a fair amount of eerie counterpoint from his bass. This is a well-programmed and refreshingly varied disc and one hopes the trio continues on as a working unit.
Track Listing: Blues for Siena; Cherokee Variation; A Summer Night; Wine Hot/Three As One; Body and Soul; Lester Young Samba; Again and Again (ii-V-I).
Personnel: Lewis Porter: piano; Furio Di Castri: double-bass; Fabrizio Sferra: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.