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Roberto Magris Quintet: Mating Call

Edward Blanco By

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In 2008, Italian jazz pianist Roberto Magris came to Kansas City to record Kansas City Outbound (PCAMI 2008) in a trio setting with the late bassist, Dr. Art Davis. Mating Call builds on that success; a straight-ahead project reconnecting with the area on the upstart Kansas City-based J-Mood Records, another evolution from Paul Collins of PCAMI Records. This time, Magris returns to the area, bringing with him jazz drummer Idris Muhammad from New York, saxophonist Paul Carr from Washington, D.C., tenor saxophonist Michael O'Neill from San Fransisco , and Charlotte, NC-based bassist Elisa Pruett. A pure straight-ahead project, the pianist borrows four vibrant charts and contributes only three originals—surprising, considering his knack for creative composition.

Magris' "Optional Man" opens the set with a catchy melody, led by Carr's soprano and a call-and-response from O'Neill, as the music moves briskly to include inevitable solos from the pianist and bassist, who sets up a calm finale. Magris plays electric piano on "Hill of Illusions," as the band begins in semi-funky territory and turns to a more hard bop settting on the wings of Carr's devilish soprano lead. O'Neill digs right into the music with a challenging phrasing of his own, with Magris eventually taking over with a taste of wizardry on the keys.

J.J. Johnson's "Lament"—originally written as a slow ballad—is rearranged here as an up-tempo piece with a Latin-tinged bounce and plenty of swing, featuring Muhammad's slow rumbling drum solo with the reed men playing in harmony. One of the lighter moments occurs on a gorgeous interpretation of Fred Lacey's ballad, "Theme For Ernie," marked by O'Neill's soulful, floating tenor lines. The pianist uses this occasion to demonstrate his appreciable chops with a notable performance.

Tadd Dameron's title piece takes on an entirely new twist, revisited here in a darkly hypnotic, medium tempo rhythm, extending past thirteen minutes in length in what seems like a departure from the album's main course. In stark contrast, "Europlane Blues" delivers a lively upbeat texture, incorporating a snappy swinging rhythm led by Magris' bluesy chords. Leonard Bernstein's closing "Lonely Town" is all Magris, performing a solo piece whose light touches turn into a breathtaking, command performance as his right hand covers the keys in blazing speed.

A remarkable performance by one of the world's finest jazz pianists, Magris continues to impress jazz audiences from Europe to Kansas City with Mating Call, providing another shining example of this artist's boundless potential. The music here is not typical or ordinary; it is creative, quite entertaining and superbly performed by all.


Track Listing: Optional Man; Hill of Illusion; Lament; Theme For Ernie; Mating Call; Europlane Blues; Lonely Town.

Personnel: Roberto Magris: piano, electric piano; Paul Carr: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Michael O'Neill: tenor saxophone; Elisa Pruett: acoustic bass; Idris Muhammad: drums.

Title: Mating Call | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: J-Mood Records

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