This is a fairly decent college-level ensemble from Salerno, Italy, but ‘U’ Train includes eight vocals on its dozen tracks, which would be far beyond my threshold of tolerance for big-band albums even if they were sung by Ella Fitzgerald or June Christy.
In this case, they are divided between Virginia Sorrentino and Mariateresa Petrosino (I’ve no way of knowing who sings on which numbers), both of whom are language majors, which seems to have helped their English, even though they haven’t completely abandoned the Italian accents (and the sense of swing is more Italian than English too). In at least one case (Carol King’s “Natural Woman”), special effects are used to create an “echo chamber” effect that makes the vocalist sound anything but “natural.” A similar device is used on the funky “Soul Lover.”
Instrumentally, the orchestra kicks things off with a sunny reading of Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” (the album’s highlight) and has the bandstand to itself on “Cercando in Terra Rossa,” Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not” and the standard “I’ll Remember April” (written by Don Raye and Gene De Paul but for some unknown reason credited here to Harry James, Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington and someone named D. George). “‘A’ Train” features one of the ensemble’s five alto saxophonists, “Whisper Not” a muted trumpet, but the most frequently heard solos are by one or more of the guitarists (three are listed). At least, I hope so. As the booklet and notes are in Italian I had to translate; I hope “chitarre” is “guitar” in English. I think “fisarmonica” translates as “accordion,” as one is used on “Whisper Not.” If not, my apologies to Gianfranco Rizzo, who plays whatever it is.
Reading further, I learned that the orchestra was formed in 1997 and my impression is that this is its third album, following Walking Around Jazz and Live at Fisciano Village. Again, I could be mistaken but that’s what the notes seem to be saying. Another thing I couldn’t avoid noticing is that several numbers seem to begin in mid-note, as if the recording machine were turned on a split second after everyone began to play. Also, the band swings nicely in some places (as on “‘A’ Train” and “I’ll Remember April”) but drags in others.
While I found the album less than worthwhile, mainly because of the vocals, it’s always good to hear young people, especially those in other countries, playing jazz to the best of their ability, and I wish the Orchestra Jazz dell’ Università Degli Studi di Salerno continued success and prosperity. The next time it records, however, I hope it’s an all-instrumental album.
Track Listing: Take the
Personnel: Stefano Giuliano, director, arranger; Franco Mannara, Corrado Pinto, trumpet; Fulvio Marino,
soprano sax; Antonangelo Guidice, Luca Martuscelli, Luca Roseto, Ester Ventura, Danilo Cassiani,
alto sax; Luciano Di Maio, tenor sax; Franco Sessa, Ubaldo Ruggiero, trombone; Giovanni Di
Martino, piano; Salvatore Mecca, Luca Cassiani, Francesco Coviello, guitar; Giovanni Di Ruggiero,
Francesco Naddeo, bass; Gianfranco Camera, Francesco Serra, drums; Massimiliano Goglia,
percussion; Virginia Sorrentino, Mariateresa Petrosino, vocals; Marcello Taddeo, tastiere;
Gianfranco Rizzo, accordion.