You cannot get a sound that is more dead-center-of-the-U.S.A than pianist Roberto Magris and Eric Hochberg's Shuffling Ivories. This makes sense geographically as the disc comes from Kansas City's JMood Records, the label that seems intent on recording everything that Magris has to offer, including the pianist's 2020 magnum opus, Suite.
Born in Trieste, Italy, Magris has embraced American jazz with a passion, from his celebrations of pianist Elmo Hope, One Night with Hope and More, Volume 1 & 2 (JMood Records, 2010), along with tributes to trumpeter Lee Morgan and alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. All of his JMood discs are well-crafted, swinging, post bop sounds, American sounds which say maybe Magris has U.S.A. in his DNA.
Shuffling Ivories carries on that tradition, this time in a duo setting with bassist Eric Hochberg, who joins Magris in a tribute that is, in large part, though not exclusively, to pianist Eubie Blake (1887-1983). Like Louis Armstrong, Blake was an Entertainer. In 1921 he wrotealong with his collaborator, Noble Sisselthe broadway musical Shuffle Along. He worked in medicine shows, vaudeville, films, and as a bandleader for the USO during World War 2; he was witty, self-deprecating, funny and quick with a well-placed quip, becoming a popular regular on the television talk show circuit in the 1970s. This is someone to celebrate.
Magris and Hochberg start off with the title tune, a Magris original, a lively and playful piece which flirts with a freer side of jazz while staying true to the spirit of Blake, with a blues influence bubbling up all over the place. The disc also includes a pair of Blake-penned tunes, the wistful "Memories Of You" and "The Chevy Chase," a solo number that unfolds as a meditative stride blues which might have been heard in Kansas City, way back when.
The old time sound isn't the only thing going on hereMagris and Hochberg also nod to the modern with two takes of an Andrew Hill composition, the lovely "Laverne."
Magris comes out of the heartland and crosses the Atlantic to go back to his homeland on his original, "Italy," celebrating not only the country of his birth, but also Italian-American musical artists such as Tony Bennett, Sal Mosca, Lennie Tristano and Carl Fontana, all influences of Roberto Magris.
And the sound: clean, crisp and ringingly clear.
Shuffling Ivories, I've Found A New Baby, Clef Club Jump, Memories Of You, The Time Of This
World Is At Hand, Quiet Dawn, Laverne, Anysha, Italy, The Chevy Chase, Laverne-Take 2
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