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All jazz trios are charged with the command to "make it new," and very few accomplish that directive. Some impersonate the giants of jazz, while others play a parodymassacring styles in the name of modernizing the sound. Neither is the case for the trio known as ROPE. Pianist Fabrizio Puglisi, bassist Stefano Senni, and drummer Zeno De Rossi regenerate the music of Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, W.C. Handy, John Lewis, and Bill Frisell with a vitality and passion for trio jazz that feels pristine.
Saints And Sinners follows Have You Met Miss Bates? (El Gallo Rojo, 2005), where the trio covered Monk and Ellington, but also John Zorn, Jelly Roll Morton, and Misha Mengelberg. The Dutch pianist is the bellwether here, in that the off-centered approach of ROPE is akin to Mengelberg's quirky vision.
The disc opens with a crash and a three-second nod toward chaos, before swinging deeply into "St. Louis Blues." Where noise would be expected, a syncopated blues approach is delivered. De Rossi's Latin drumming accents the knowing Herbie Nichols-style piano of Puglisi, updating stride to bebop. They take Fats Waller's "Mamacita" in the same pace, reeling off a Cuban-styled romp that would make Bebo Valdes smile. Then too, Monk would be pleased with their take on "San Francisco Holiday," where Puglisi first abandons the keyboard for the piano's viscera. The piece begins as a dream, before the taut strings successfully give up the melody. Both Senni and De Rossi are in on the joke, fussing with the edges until the pianist is ready to state the theme proper. The medley of Ellington's "Kinda Dukish" and "Rockin' In Rhythm" emits an almost pure jubilation. The trio circles the master's signature sounds with admiration, but also with a playful buoyancy. The music elevates, then keeps going.
Like most great players, ROPE's music swings best at its most quiet. Its cover of Bill Frisell's "Monica Jane" and Puglisi's "Triogramma" accomplish a solid sense of purpose with an economy of notes. Both tracksthe folksy Frisell piece and Puglisi's originalemanate a significant vibe that reconstructs an argument for jazz as the universal language.
Track Listing: St. Louis Blues; San Francisco Holiday; Django; Medley: Kinda Dukish, Rockin' In Rhythm; Baron Samedi; Mamacita; Monica Jane; Triogramma.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.