The Breezy Jazz Band at The Blue Note Milano

Martin McFie BY

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The Breezy Jazz Band
The Blue Note Milano
Celebrate New Orleans!
Milan, Italy
October 20, 2020

While The Blue Note on West 3rd Street in New York City is temporarily closed, its cousin on via Borsieri in Milan, is presenting two performances a night. Such are the vagaries of a pandemic. On the wall outside in via Borsieri, the handprints of Chris Botti and Dee Dee Bridgewater attest to the international flavor of the music inside.

Through their artistic director and radio presenter Nick the Nightfly, the Blue Note Milano is closely associated with Radio Monte Carlo. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they transmit live to Monaco. The Radio Monte Carlo logo was displayed on the stage, topped off with a crown representing His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, ruler of the microstate principality.

The large Blue Note Milano room seats 300 people for dinner or drinks on two levels plus the gallery. The Breezy Jazz Band quintet was led by Domenico Mamone on alto saxophone, with Bruce Stevens who had travelled from England to play the tuba and sing. Angelo Astore was on the piano, with the rhythm section of bass and drums. They were celebrating New Orleans so they began with the classic gospel dirge "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" the music marching sadly along, going upbeat, holding back the volume then increasing the power to a sharp finish. "That's a Plenty" followed, started by the tuba and tambourine, while the kick drum kept time. The pianist went to stride with a bouncing left hand. Another classic New Orleans number came next, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," where traces of the "Suwannee River" flowed into the improvised piano section, to be echoed by the alto saxophone.

Mamone is a fan of Sidney Bechet, in his style they played "Champs-Elysees," "Petit Fleur" and "Mr. Bechet."

The quintet returned to the New Orleans theme with "Bourbon Street Parade," leaving out the parade for safety but Stevens sang a spirited "Let's fly down or drive down to New Orleans." The mood slowed again for another funerary dirge, the poignant "St. James Infirmary." Then, one by one the band left the stage to the piano for a couple of Scott Joplin rags. They went out to grand applause from an audience of all ages with "Corrina Corrina" / "Girl, where you been so long?"

One hundred and twenty year old music filled with joy and sadness, still spread optimism through a sophisticated Milanese audience. That's jazz.

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