For many jazz fans, Stefano Di Battista will always be associated with the city of Paris, where he became a regular performer at The Sunset in the mid-1990s. From there, the alto and soprano saxophonist became a valuable sideman (to the late piano great Michel Petrucciani and later, drummer Elvin Jones) before launching his own solo career. On Round About Roma, his third date for Blue Note, Di Battista keeps the lush romance of the City of Lights alive and well while taking us back to the music of Rome, his beloved birthplace, where his journey on the sax began at age 13.
"This album is a story about Rome and its history, with every song featuring a unique point of view about the city’s life," he says. "The idea was to remember people and places, both real and fictional, like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Anastasia,’ and bring out love through the music. It’s important that as a composer and player, I always tell the truth. My band and I really liked the 2000 Joni Mitchell CD Both Sides Now and we wanted to recreate a new kind of jazz music using this idea."
Di Battista is in the company of longtime friends and cohorts throughout the eight beautiful and haunting tracks. He has worked with this particular quartet"pianist Eric Legnini, double bassist Rosario Bonaccorso and drummer Andre Ceccarelli"for almost ten years, and they’re still making magic some 500 gigs later (Legnini appeared on A Prima Vista, and Bonaccorso is on that date and the 2001 self-titled release). "Playing with them is my life," the saxophonist says. "We all know each other really well. The piano and double bass are like a prolongation to my mind, and the drum is my heartbeat."
Still, the essence of Rome cannot be conveyed by jazz ensemble alone, and this is where the orchestra of top Parisian musicians (featuring the 1st violin of the Opera National de Paris) transforms a magnificent jazz date into a truly universal expression of love featuring classical and film score overtones. Bringing this element to glorious life is veteran orchestrator and arranger Vince Mendoza, who has worked a similar magic for years with jazz and pop heavyweights like Bjork, The Yellowjackets, Peter Erskine, John Scofield, and significantly, Joni Mitchell, for whom Mendoza wrote the orchestral arrangements of Mitchell classics that appear on her previously mentioned recording, Both Sides Now. Incredibly for all of its grandeur, Round About Roma was recorded in one nine hour session in Paris, with no overdubs.