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Paolo Fresu: Songlines / Night & Blue

Greg Simmons By

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Paolo Fresu's Songlines/Night & Blue is a beautiful performance by a musician who does not feel compelled to prove himself with pyrotechnics. Instead, on this two-disc set, the Italian trumpeter prefers speaking his piece with lush melodies and a rich full horn sound, supported by an exceptional quartet.

Being an Italian album, it seems appropriate to use a few musical terms. The entire affair, around 140 minutes in length, is taken sostenuto (smoothly), with a pace that slides between adagio (slowly) and andante (walking), but never goes much faster than that. But this down-tempo consistency should not be confused with sloth. Everything here is tightly played, with some real intensity from the musicians; it's just not going to wake the neighbors with frenetic thunder.

These discs really could be taken as two complete albums. The first, Songlines, focuses on compositions by Fresu and other members of his band. The performances are compact and dense, with a great deal of interplay and unison playing between Fresu and saxophonist Tino Tracanna. Fresu's "The Right Way" introduces a hint of funk, with a walking bass line and both front-line horns improvising subtly and in exceptionally good taste. Fresu's muted trumpet wears Miles Davis' influence on its sleeve—homage, but never imitation. Pianist Roberto Cipelli switches to Rhodes for a few tracks to good effect, including his own "Nucleo," which channels a fine 1970s vibe. Every member of the quintet contributes original music to this disc, all crafted with the utmost attention to melodic statement.

The second disc, Night & Blue, covers a range of American popular and jazz tunes. It opens with Cipelli back on piano, stating the theme of "Blue Gardenia," before Fresu overlays that full, warm trumpet, with a tone straight from heaven. Davis' "Blue in Green" is a standout, with Tracanna harmonizing lightly in counterpoint—improvising and then leaving space for his cohorts to join him, to complete one of the finest versions of this track to be cut since the 1959 original. Sonny Rollins' "Blue Seven" adds a bit of cool-swinging blues, while Wayne Shorter's, "Children of the Night," breaks the speed barrier ever-so-slightly. Fresu's take on Horace Silver's "Peace," played with only piano accompaniment, is 99 seconds of pure trumpet splendor.

Finally, a note on the recording itself, which is of very high quality. The instruments are life-sized on the soundstage, and captured with all their overtones and hues intact. Songlines/Night & Blue is capable of showing how good a sound system can perform. Kudos to the engineers on this one.

Track Listing: CD1: Eterninna; Casta Rumba; Airsong; Monitango; Ninna Nanna Per Andrea; Inno Alla Vita; The Right Way; Songlines; Lirico; Wayne; Nuvole Notturne; Nucleo; Aldo E Il Mare; Blue Water; Saturn. CD2: Blue Gardenia (take one); Blue Lace; Blue In Green; Moonlight In Vermont; Summer Night; Nightlake; Blue Samba; Blue Seven; Night Flower; Children Of The Night; You And The Night And The Music; Blue Silver; Peace; Blue Gardenia (take two_.

Personnel: Paolo Fresu: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tino Tracanna: saxophones; Roberto Cipelli; piano, organ; Attilio Zanchi: bass; Ettore Fioravanti; drums.

Title: Songlines / Night & Blue | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Tuk Music

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