Tommaso Starace Harmony Less Quartet: Narrow Escape

Roger Farbey By

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This highly engaging set was recorded at Only Music Studio in Turin, Italy on 23 and 24 January 2018 but was mixed and mastered in Bexley, Kent the following July. Saxophonist Tommaso Starace has a solid connection with the UK having studied at Birmingham Conservatoire where he graduated with a BMus first class honours degree. Starace, who was born in Milan in 1975, completed his postgraduate jazz studies at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama between 1999 and 2000. Narrow Escape is Starace's follow-up to From A Distant Past (Emarcy, 2016), a duo album recorded with pianist and fellow Italian Michele Di Toro.

The helter skelter staccato opening to "Touch And Go" gives no indication as to its subsequent meandering course of twists and turns. The first of four consecutive originals composed by Starace, there's complexity here in abundance, with the tempo alternately quickening and slowing, whilst all the while Starace's alto and Dave O'Higgins' tenor interplay in unison and close harmony. Davide Liberti's resonant bass introduces "Medusa's Charm" and tightly anchors the number right to its end. "Fugue in Eb" yields precisely what is implied by the title; it weaves its contrapuntal lines with a mixture of delicacy and intricacy. On the title track Liberti again opens the proceedings but this time with a full-blown, sumptuous bass solo before the angular melody kicks-in. In his solo, Starace nimbly takes his alto into the higher registers.

The next four numbers are standards beginning with Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" and features the saxophones cannily employing unison, harmony and call and response lines over a walking bass. The majestic and at times breathtaking "Grand Central" echoes the twin horns of the original version that featured John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. Following the breezy take on "Like Someone In Love," there's a take-no-prisoners version of Dizzy Gillespie's classic "Be Bop." The finale is Starace's "Pass A Good Time" which contains all the chemistry of great post-bop invention, punctuated by meticulously interwoven themes and harmonic structure. The universal thread running through this album is characterised by cerebral arrangements married with vital rhythmic structures and superlative soloing. This is hard bop but with a twenty first century edge.

Track Listing: Touch And Go; Medusa’s Charm; Fugue In Eb; Narrow Escape; Trinkle Tinle; Grand Central; Like Someone In Love; Be Bop; Pass A Good Time.

Personnel: Tommaso Starace: alto saxophone; Dave O’Higgins: tenor saxophone; Davide Liberti: bass; Ruben Bellavia: drums.

Title: Narrow Escape | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Music Center

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