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Antonio Ciacca: Lagos Blues (with Steve Grossman)

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There's a good reason most "real" jazz radio stations tend to favor the modern mainstream jazz of the post-bop era codified by such record labels from the mid-20th Century as Blue Note, Columbia's jazz division, Prestige, Riverside and Impulse. It's creative jazz with a comfortingly substantial physicality, clean lines and rhythmic heft still anchored to a swing feel. The excellent Italian jazz pianist Antonio Ciacca is firmly in that modern mainstream, the music here from a quintet, quartet and trio mining the listener's familiarity with what is heard as the standard on jazz radio.

Pianist Antonio Ciacca, who has been Director of Programming for Jazz at Lincoln Center since 2007, uses this CD as a feature showcase for tenor saxophonist Steve Grossman, with whom he worked in Italy in the '90s. Grossman was in the Miles Davis Bitches Brew-era band (1969-71) and with Elvin Jones in the 1970s and he's joined here on the three quintet tracks by fellow tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, bassist Kengo Nakamura and drummer Ulysses Owens rounding out the hard bop hefty rhythm section. Grossman and Dillard complement each other, sharing a muscular approach but nicely differing improvisational strategies.

References and allusions abound, from the Horace Silver groove of the title tune to the John Coltrane blueprint for "Body and Soul"; the classic tenor battle of the blues "Whims of Chambers" to the perfect grace note of the final track, a piano solo/trio medley of Duke Ellington's "Reflections in D/In A Sentimental Mood." But for allusive resonance, nothing beats the perfect symmetry of "Nico's Song," Ciacca's contrafact on the changes of "All the Things You Are"; a tenor sax solo is framed by piano trio sections in a mirror of the Miles Davis{{ Quintet with Trane approach from the '50s, right down to the tempo, all ending with the epiphany of a coda/tag from {{Charlie Parker's classic recording of the Jerome Kern song.

Track Listing: Lagos Blues; Take the D Train; Nicoletta; Whims of Chambers; Nico's Song; Body & Soul; Reflections in D/In a Sentimental Mood.

Personnel: Antonio Ciacca: piano; Kengo Nakamura: bass; Ulysses Owens: drums; Stacy Dillard: tenor sax; Steve Grossman: tenor sax.

Title: Lagos Blues (with Steve Grossman) | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Motema Music

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