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Francesco Cafiso: Moody'n

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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"Youth will be served." That is a saying appropriately describing the meteoric rise to success that Sicilian alto saxophonist Francesco Cafiso has achieved since he turned "professional" at nine years old. With Moody 'n, Cafiso plunges deeply into the BeBop canon performing a handful of classics and, in doing so demonstrates both the bravado of a young man and refined musical maturity beyond his years.

The alto saxophone BeBop legacy is a lengthy and robust one from paternoster Charlie Parker and his acolytes Sonny Stitt and Jackie McLean on through Art Pepper, Phil Woods and to torch-carrier Richie Cole today. It takes a certain amount of brazenness for an alto saxophonist to offer selections so affiliated with Bird and record them. And, when those selections are rendered near impeccably in both context and character, Cafiso further solidifies his spot as a sax star rising.

Cafiso is a master technician who can blaze through the chord changes with accuracy and cogent musical idea development, rarely integrating clichés. The great Phil Woods, who "discovered" Cafiso as a teen once said, jokingly referring to Cafiso's technical prowess: "I'd like to break his arm." "Al-leu-cha" lights the flame at a breakneck tempo with trumpeter Dino Rubino blasting off and tempting Cafiso to follow suit. The artists trade electric eighths in a display of chop wizardry. Rubino is the perfect "Dizzy"ing foil to Cafiso's Parkeresque forays ("Barbados" and "Steeplechase"). The tandem is a marvel to observe.

It's interesting to note that the quartet is sans drummer. Pianist Giovanni Mazzorino and bassist Rosario Bonacorso support the frontline magnificently with outstanding rhythmic and harmonic support. Their interplay with both Cafiso and Rubino enhances each selection and never imposes or intrudes on the melodies or solos. Both Mazzorino and Bonacorso demonstrate excellent solo efforts.

Cafiso's alto sound is more classical than pure bop. More Marcel Mule than Jackie McLean, but, his rhythmic and creative senses are uncanny ("Whisper Not"). His slower tempo solos float and roll with restraint, no small matter for a musician with a treasure chest of chops and technical prowess.

There are four Cafiso original compositions on the date—each interesting in their own right. Moody & Marsden Band spotlights Cafiso's speed-of-light melodic development. Blistering over Bonacorso's walking bass. The tune is a breathtaking alto sax tour de force. "In a Ghost Way of Love," is contrapuntal, dark and Thelonius Monk-mysterious, rather than syrupy romantic. It is beautiful in an odd way, as is "Mr. Knom's Hats." "Secret Ways of Invisible Beauties" offers pianist Mazzorino's gorgeous chordal setting between silences. Cafiso demonstrates subdued longer tones in what is a beautiful melancholic setting. The distinction between this and the sheer ferocity of Cafiso's speed-play is enormous and gives perspective to the range of his talent.

"Moody'n" demonstrates the joy and musical challenges of BeBop. With this CD, Cafiso and cohorts fondly salute the Masters and advise them that the BeBop torch is in fine speed-of-light hands and shining brightly.

Track Listing: Strollin,' Al-leu-cha, Whisper Not, Moody'n, In a Ghost Way of Love, Milestones, Mr. Knom's Hats--Introspectaball, Secret Ways of Inviolable Beauties, Barbados, Steeplechase.

Personnel: Francesco Cafiso: alto saxophone; Dino Rubino: trumpet, flugelhorn; Giovanni Mazzorino, piano; Rosario Bonacorso: drums.

Title: Moody'n | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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