Italian pianist Antonio Ciacca is the kind of musician who displays his influences without reservation. Steeped in the tradition of bebop and gospel piano, the New York resident is focused on swinging as hard as he can. Evidence of this can be heard on Rush Life, a hard-blowing quintet recording with tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, bassist Kengo Nakamura and drummer Rodney Green.
The disc’s nine tracks are a satisfying blend of Ciacca originals and well-worn standards. The opening “Squazin,” dedicated to trumpeter and Ciacca colleague Wynton Marsalis, has a classic Horace Silver vibe. “Chipewha,” based on the jam session warhorse “Cherokee,” allows each band member the chance to show off tremendous bebop fortitude. It comes as no surprise to find Benny Golson’s classic ballad “I Remember Clifford” as part of Ciacca’s repertoirethe pianist has toured extensively throughout the world with the saxophone legend. Magnarelli carries the familiar theme with a confident stride before showcasing his powerful, hard-bop-influenced solo chops.
Other tunes of note include the modal “Flat 5 Flat 9,” the hard-swinging “Riverdale” (featuring a gutsy solo by Dillard), and the Wayne Shorter-influenced “Prince of Newark,” where Nakamura displays formidable bass chops.
The economical approach to composing and arranging on this session leaves plenty of solo space for all. By graciously sharing the spotlight with his top-notch bandmates, Ciacci succeeds at turning Rush Life into a worthy, ensemble-driven endeavor.
Squazin; Chipewha; I Remember Clifford; Flat 5 Flat 9; On Green Dolphin Street; Rush Life; Riverdale; Prince of Newark; Without a Song.
Antonio Ciacca: piano; Kengo Nakamura: bass; Rodney Green: drums; Stacy Dillard: tenor saxophone; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet.