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Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner

Martin McFie By

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Rossano Sportiello Trio
The Jazz Corner
Hilton Head Island, SC
December 22, 2017

Rossano Sportiello from Milan showed the elegance and deft touch of a concert pianist Friday, December 22nd at the Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island. He plays softly, modulating the volume only when the piece demanded to define a statement. Sportiello is known for the powerful bouncing left hand stride piano style and played a rousing version of the Fats Waller classic "Honeysuckle Rose" to prove it. Australian born Nicki Parrott on bass did a fine vocal rendition of "Besame Mucho" carrying the tune perfectly while still playing the bass line. The famously romantic song is a bolero, written in 1940 by 24-year old Mexican concert pianist, Consuelo Velaquez. Vivacious and charming, Ms. Parrott lit up the stage with smiles and the sounds of scat and Ella Fitzgerald at the end of this 100th anniversary year celebration of her life and music. The trio was completed by accomplished drummer Eddie Metz Jr. who has the singular distinction of once having received a phone call from Count Basie himself inviting Metz to join the band, which he did. It's not clear whether a stick flew out of his hand or whether Metz meant to throw it up in the air but what is sure is that he caught it and went on with his solo to delighted applause.

In the second set, Sportiello showed the depth of his skill playing a Chopin Mazurka. The Mazurka is Polish folk music which Chopin interpreted. Now Sportiello took Chopin's work and reinterpreted it into the jazz idiom. After playing the classical theme as Chopin wrote it, the transition from classical to jazz was so smooth it was seamless. He revisited the Chopin score time and again before completing the interpretation. As an encore, Sportiello treated the audience to the impossibly fast "Minute Waltz," improvising on the central waltz section before rushing up and down the keyboard to finish his second Chopin piece. The group rounded out the evening with an obligatory Christmas song to complete this most varied and exceptionally well performed two sets of music. This was master musicians playing intricate but recognizable themes completely together, not a series of solos, they were concentrating on the music and sharing a celebration of the holidays.

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