Roberto Magris, the prolific Italian pianist who spends a lot of his time in America, has recorded with several different types of groups in his career. This is his first outing with a new straightahead sextet that includes Chicago legend Ira Sullivan on alto and soprano saxophones and flute, and it is a strong one.
This particular group is steeped in the jazz traditions of the Fifties and Sixties, echoing McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey and Horace Silver at different points. The title track is heard in two versions that begin and end the album. Both have the three horn players, Sullivan, tenor saxophonist Mark Colby and trumpeter Shareef Clayton flowing tightly together over a strong African vamp, laid down by Magris and the rhythm section, before separating into fire-breathing solos. On "Maliblues" the three horns harmonize an exotic melody at a more relaxed tempo, leading into strong solos by Clayton's hard-edged trumpet, Sullivan's cool flute and Colby's authoritative tenor. "Beauty Is Forever" is a carefree Silver-like stroll with sprightly piano from Magris and Colby and Clayton bearing down soulfully. "Planet Of Love" is an elegant flute-led waltz where Colby shows his gentler, romantic side and drummer Rodolfo Zuniga lays down a gliding rhythm which supports the other musicians nicely.
Magris wrote everything on the album except for "Innamorati A Milano," an Italian pop song from the Sixties. That piece is played jauntily and cool, like vintage Jazz Messengers. Magris and all three horn players solo with ebullience while bassist Jamie Ousley keeps a steady groove going and Zungia slips and fills like Art Blakey himself. "Look At The Stars" starts with Magris, Ousley and Zuniga rattling with a spiritual fire which suggests McCoy Tyner's work with John Coltrane, before the horns come in en masse, playing a rousing bluesy soul groove, Magris rolling alongside. Sullivan really burns on soprano and Colby and Clayton both play with a convincing swagger.
Roberto Magris comes off as a strong pianist and composer, whether dabbling in jazz fusion, exploring the Lee Morgan songbook or just working in a piano trio format but this band is one of his hardest hitting units. It plays within the confines of familiar jazz territory, but with soul and power. Hopefully he will keep this group around for a while.
Sun Stone; Innamorati a Milano; Planet of Love; Maliblues; Beauty Is Forever; Look at the Stars; Sun Stone II.
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