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Piero Bassini Trio / Mike Melillo Trio: Nostalgia / Moonlight on the Gange

C. Michael Bailey By

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Trio Exercises in RED. The jazz piano trio is one of the most durable and reliable performance vehicles. It can be jazz chamber music at its finest without being pretentious. Currently considered are two trio offerings released on RED Records. Piero Bassini and Mike Melillo, the respective piano part of the trios. The pianists are both two fisted, block-chord experts who are unequal parts Bud Powell and Red Garland with a more aggressive touch.

Bassini. Piero Bassini plays with a straight-ahead style vastly influenced by Powell. Powell’s influence may best be heard on “Step’s Blues” and “Bud’s Time”. Full-bodied orchestral playing reminiscent of “Dance of the Infidels”. “Autumn Waltz” shows evidence of a major McCoy Tyner strain. The over all effect is big almost symphonic playing. Bassini’s ballad playing is sensitive and spare; his up tempo playing is precise and never wasteful. The highlights of the disc are his two solo piano outings: “Circle Tones” and “Billie’s Blues” (adapted from and not credited to Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce”. These are where the prodigious Bassini displays all of his chops.

Speaking of Bud. Did I say these two pianists were influenced by Bud Powell’s playing? Mike Melillo’s previous RED recording was a Bud tribute record Alernate Changes for Bud (123211). He plays is a slightly lighter, though equally authoritative touch. Melillo submits perfectly delightful and angular performances of Ornette Coleman’s “Humpty Dumpty” and “Tears Inside”. Add to this the hard Bebop of “Groovin’ High” and his own solo expression on Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate on You” and Mike Melillo emerges a solid performer.

RED Rover. The sound on both of these recordings is very good. The rhythm support of both is captured with an accurate immediacy, pushing the bass and drums up to the piano. The discs are well worth many spins. In 1980, I told a friend that the best recording I had heard that year was Jefferson Airplane’s Bathing as Baxter’s. The best trio recordings I have heard in 1999 are these two earlier recordings.

Track Listing ( Nostalgia ):Autumn Waltz; Nostalgia; Step’s Blues; Circling Tones; Bud’s Time; Reflections; Blues for Gwen; One Dollar Blues; Billie’s Blues (Total Playing Time 53:19).

Personnel ( Nostalgia ):Piero Bassini: Piano; Furio DiCastri: Bass; Giamiero Prina: Drums.

Track Listing ( Moonlight on the Gange ):Moonlight on the Gange; Humpty Dumpty; Nice If You Can; Most Definitely; Tears Inside; I Concentrate On You; Moonlight on the Gange (Take 2); Groovin’ High (Total Playing Time 61:62).

Personnel ( Moonlight on the Gange ):Mike Melillo: Piano; Michael Moore: Bass; Ben Riley: Drums.

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