The Amsterdam-based Keep an Eye Foundation, is a Dutch government sponsored program for developing artists across many creative disciplines. Their jazz program culminates in an annual award competition for new talent and in 2014, bassist Alessandro Fongaro was awarded sponsorship that has now resulted in the quintet release of Neither More Nor Less.
A native of Valdagno, Italy, now living in the Netherlands (following a student exchange program in which he participated), Fongaro has been pursuing jazz since the age of sixteen. With a strong business sense to go with his musical aptitude, Fongaro attended the Rotterdam-based international university, Codarts, an institution that stresses a more rounded business management approach for musicians and other artists. Fongaro, though an expatriate at the moment, has not turned his back on Italy and hopes to return and work with that country's own fine jazz musicians.
It was at Codarts that Fongaro assembled an international band of very talented musicians that allowed him to share the musical decision making process, often in the old-world setting of the dinner table. It adds a kind of charm to music that is often progressive but with mainstream grounding and a strong sense of melodicism. Joining him are Dutch saxophonist Donald Simoen, Italian guitarist Federico Castelli, Belgium native Thomas Maasz on piano and Hungarian drummer Attila Gyarfas. All in their twenties, the group benefits from Fongaro's original compositions which play to the strengths of the individuals while observing the best practices in group dynamics.
"Five Months" takes its time building, eventually providing a high-energy improvisational setting for Maasz before returning to the main theme. Castelli's fluid guitar takes center stage on the title track and "KG" is a charismatic ballad that showcases Simoen and Maasz at their most lyrical. It's not until "The Traveller"which may well be a Fongaro autobiographical compositionthat we hear an extended demonstration of the leader's own superb skills on the double base followed by another exhilarating solo from Maasz. Gyarfas' subltleand not so subtlemanipulations keeps these pieces coherent while constantly in motion. The outlier on Neither More Nor Less is the closing piece, a harder edged "Blues Not," that gives all the players a chance to cut loose.
Neither More Nor Less is a fine debut from some very talented artists that are just barely out of the gate in their musical careers. There are no wasted spaces on this album and it engages from the outset, wisely taking time to breath when the pace requires a bit of a sensory cool-down. While Fongaro is a talent to watch, all the players here deserve equal attention.
Five Months; Neither More Nor Less; KG; The Traveller; Prelude to a Loss; Waterfall; Home; Blues Not.
Donald Simoen: alto saxophone; Federico Castelli: Guitar; Thomas Maasz: piano; Alessandro Fongaro: double bass; Attila Gyarfas: drums.