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Michael Campagna: Moments

Edward Blanco By

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Michael Campagna may be one of the newest ambassadors of modern jazz on the scene today, and Moments—his debut on the Netherlands' Challenge Records—highlights his talent as an improviser and composer, as well as showcasing his chops as a saxophonist and flautist. A follow-up to his debut as leader—Passionate Nature (CDBY, 2006)—Moments is a personal representation of the many challenging circumstances and moods during his life leading to and inspiring the musical moments captured here.

That said, not every piece was born from some extraordinary experience in the saxophonist's life. A case in point is the infectious and catchy opener, "Summer Rain," from the experience of one of those rare days when the sun shines and the rain falls gently; still, it's a terrific beginning, featuring the Rodriguez brothers (trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and pianist Roberto Juan Rodriguez) on a standout tune. Harpist Brandee Younger appears on four pieces starting with "Dear John," a soft, humbling number dedicated to the great John Coltrane, a major influences on Campagna's music and life.

Inspired while walking the streets of Genova, Italy, "Journeys" features a light chase between the two Michaels (trumpeter and saxophonist), peppered by a bit of improvisation as the music weaves in different directions, just like a walking journey offers a constantly changing scenery. Dedicated to his late mother-in-law, the respectful ballad "Celestial Romance (for Anna)" features Campagna on flute for the first time, and also highlights the pianist and Austrian-born bassist Hans Glawischnig.

"Bridges" crosses over a light airy landscape for one of the most interesting compositions of the set and features Michael Rodriguez on flugelhorn, while Campagna's fluid flute lines float the delicate melody on a tune inspired by a bridge over a canal near his home, growing up in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (Campagna is a graduate of the prestigious music school from the University of Miami). Relying more on the mellow side of the music than swing, the album winds down with one of its highlights, "Song For Monica," a musical love letter to the saxophonist's wife that features his more than appreciable chops.

The tragic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 served as inspiration for the closing "Hope," a slow and sensitive ballad, devoid of the flash and imbedded in a sea of tranquility in honor and remembrance of that awful day. Events such as these, as well as perhaps less significant experiences provide the source material for Campagna's sparkling Challenge debut, using the special Moments and people in his life as inspiration from which to fashion these special moments of music.

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