Roberto Magris, the Italian pianist who spends a good bit of time in the United States, records prolifically. His latest release is a 2CD set that covers a lot of ground, encompassing sparkling hard bop, spiritual jazz, solo piano work and soulful excursions that feature electric keyboards.
For much of the CD Magris plays with a quintet featuring the late Mark Colby on tenor sax, Eric Jacobson on trumpet, Eric Hochberg on bass and Greg Artry on drums. Tracks like "Sunset Breeze," "Chicago Nights" and "(You're My Everything) Yes I Am" are up-tempo jazz tunes that crackle from the sharp interplay of the tenor and trumpet and the driving support of the rhythm section. Other selections, like "A Message For A World To Come," "Circles Of Existence" and "The Island of Nowhere" carry more weight. They begin with PJ Aubree Collins reciting Magris' lyrics about topics like working towards a better world and the mysteries of existence. This leads into music that, on the first two tunes, carries the wide trembling force of John Coltrane in devotional mood with Magris rumbling like McCoy Tyner and the horns infusing their fiery hard bop lines with a gospel swagger. On "The Island Of Nowhere" Magris switches to Fender Rhodes, tinkling notes so abstract they could be taken for a Sun Ra passage before Colby and Jacobson bring things back to Earth with their hip blowing.
Magris uses both acoustic and electric piano throughout the album, playing commanding and lively jazz in both modes but a few of the electric tracks have a funkier feel to them. "Too Young To Go Steady" is laidback hip hop funk, and "Perfect Peace" drifts along a dreamy instrumental flow that accompanies more inspirational words from Collins. "One With The Sun," an old Santana tune, is a sprightly bossa nova that Collins actually sings with the band.
This set also has room for an impassioned version of King Crimson's "In The Wake Of Poseidon," which adapts with surprising ease to an acoustic jazz format, and the title track, a whirling waltz where the horns gracefully twirl and Magris carves out a garrulous romantic solo. On top of all this there are a few solo piano tracks. "Summertime" has its melody banged out amidst a maze of keyboard scrambling, "Love Creation" is a touching original ballad and "Never Let Me Go" is played with the lushness of a movie score.
This record is full of the beauty, optimism and joy that has usually marked Roberto Magris' music but this time it feels like there is a deeper purpose, that this is his attempt to bring some much needed healing into the world. Magris' original compositions are strong, his own playing is immaculate and his group plays with elegance and exuberance. The pianist has released a lot of music but this is one of his most complete and powerful recordings.
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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