Italian pianist/composer Roberto Magris could not have anticipated the urgent need for a positive message when he recorded Suite! in 2018. The newly released double album reflects Magris' belief that a better world is coming and his certainty is conveyed in a sprawling program of poetry, original compositions, and some surprising covers. He has recorded as the leader of several sextets but here features a new line-up dominated by studio musicians.
Working in the larger format, Magris allows his bandmates plenty of room to stretch. Outstanding solos are scattered throughout the collection; such as bassist Hochberg on the surprise Disc 1 opener, Robert Fripp's King Crimson classic "In the Wake of Poseidon." Jacobson, Colby, and Magris add to a theatrical variation of the original. "Sunset Breeze," one of nine Magris originals, is a straight-ahead swing with an undercurrent of Latin rhythm and features outstanding work from drummer Greg Artry. "A Message For A World To Come" opens with reflective arco bass and a poetry reading from Collins, but builds across sixteen minutes, to a full-blown swing piece. In context, it is an early setup for John Lennon's "Imagine," which closes the second disc as a Magris solo.
Magris treats George Gershwin's "Summertime" to a wild solo piano ride, often abstract, and the freest playing on the album. The mood changes dramatically on "Perfect Peace" where the leader moves to Fender Rhodes for this fusion number. "The Island of Nowhere," again kicks off with poetry then evolves into full swing with saxophone and trumpet creating the impression of a larger ensemble.
In conveying his ambitious message of hope through this collection, Magris is unassuming. In his liner notes, he says: "I have invented nothing. I just added something personal to what I learned from the masters." What he adds, with the support of his top-notch band, is a level of energy, emotion and musicality that convey his vision without preaching. Suite! is Magris' best work to date and should appeal to a wide jazz audience.
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.
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