Roberto Magris: Suite!

Dan McClenaghan By

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Roberto Magris: Suite!
Italian pianist Roberto Magris began his jazz career in the late 1970s, releasing a handful of excellent albums on Soul Note Records. He picked up steam in his collaboration with Kansas City's JMood Records in 2008 on Kansas City Outbound. As a pianist and a bandleader, Magris seems to have soaked up numerous influences—mid-sixties Blue Note Records, McCoy Tyner, Elmo Hope, Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey. His JMood Records catalog boasts eighteen releases, including the disc at hand, Suite!.

The quick opinion on Suite!: the most successfully ambitious recording in Magris' discography, his magnum opus. It is a sprawling, multi-layered two disc set, with music addressing everything from Blue Note Records to trumpeter Lee Morgan, saxophonist Joe Henderson in his freer leaning, John Coltrane—before things went completely free—Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra and more.

The 1970 King Crimson tune "In The Wake of Poseidon" opens the disc. Magris makes it an anthem—a big dense sound emanating a life force, in the manner of John Coltrane's African Brass (Impulse! Records, 1961). In addition to the core quintet—two horns and a rhythm section—the intro features PJ Aubree Collins' crisp, straightforward poetic recitation. The poetry/jazz combination can be a hit or miss proposition. It hits beautifully here with Collins, who appears on three more cuts, including the Magris-penned "A Message To The World To Come," a grand sixteen minute statement that mixes a Blue Note vibe with the spirituality of Alice Coltrane. The tune beginswith a foreboding bass solo by Eric Hochberg, followed by another Collins recitation, a litany demanding: ...."no hunger, no discrimation, no starvation, no war..." and so on, giving way to a "fanfare for the world to come," blowing over Greg Artry's rolling thunder drums and the piano-led rhythm section that shifts into a hopeful, swinging groove.

Magris includes some choices from the Great American Songbook, including "Too Young To Go Steady." It is to Suite! what "I'm Old Fashioned" is to John Coltrane's Blue Train (Blue Note, 1958)—a familiar tune put across to perfection. The beautiful ballad features a supremely fluid tempo as three brief but eloquent solos unfold—trumpeter Eric Jacobson, saxophonist Mark Colby and Magris on Fender Rhodes. It is on Jacobson's second solo where things shift into a musical nirvana—the way Blue Train's "I'm Old Fashioned" did on Lee Morgan's mid tune turn—with the bass and drums treating the rhythm as something malleable, shaping it into a subtle stretch as the trumpet gives way to an edgy, growling saxophone statement.

Magris also includes some piano solos, beginning with the opener of CD 2, a wall-of-sound rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime," a brief and pensive "Love Creation," and closing with John Lennon's "Imagine." Also included are with a bossa tune—Collins singing instead of reciting—and some more first rate straight ahead jazz in between.

Many double albums showcase the artist reaching a pinnacle of expression. For Roberto Magris, Suite! does just that, as the pianist / bandleader takes a step in the direction of social consciousness and spirituality with a killer band.

Track Listing

Disc 1: In The Wake of Poseidon; Sunset Breeze; A Message For A world To Come; Too Yung To Go Steady; Suite!; Circles Of Existence. Disc 2: (End Of A) Summertime; Perfect Peace; (You're My Everything) Yes I Am!; Love Creation; One With The Sun; Never Let me Go; Chicago Nights; The Island Of Nowhere; Imagine; Audio Notebook by Paul Collins.


Roberto Magris: piano; Mark Colby: saxophone; Eric Jacobson: trumpet; Eric Hochberg: bass; Greg Artry: drums; PJ Aubree Collins: voice / vocals; P.J. Aubree Collins: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: Suite! | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: JMOOD* RECORDS

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