Piero Umiliani scored over 60 films in his native Italy between 1958 and 1981. And it's no secret that Italian films, even as derivative and as unfamiliar as they are to most Americans, are a treasure trove of excellent artistry. The recent "now-sound" craze is finally affording Italian film composers like Umiliani their due.
This 1971 double-album-on-one-CD is a prize. It's an instrumental program, similar to the kind Henry Mancini used to release between films. But this one is tougher, filled with clever electric themes, gritty car-chase funk and superb playing by many of Italy's best jazz artists (including the vastly under-appreciated pianist Franco D'Andrea). American cop shows like "Streets of San Francisco" and "Starsky and Hutch" weren't even playing this kind of music until the mid 70s. But here Umiliani, who has clearly studied his Mancini and Lalo Schifrin, stakes his claim.
Highlights are so plentiful over these 76 minutes, it would be easier to list the duds. But even then, it's worth tuning in for creative jazz explorations and other wild surprises. The entrancing, moody funks of "Lady Magnolia," "Music on the Road" and "Tropical River," are this listener's favorites, though. Umiliani composed all 21 tracks and is heard on moog, Fender Rhodes and marimba. Sometimes he's out front, but other electric keyboards, guitars and a bevy of percussion keep that groove percolating. Easy Tempo (Right Tempo), the Italian company that's at the forefront of making so much of this great 70s "now-sound" music available on CD, also features Umiliani's best moments on their five excellent, highly-recommended Easy Tempo collections. True believers, however, can proceed right to Umiliani's recently issued soundtracks, also on Easy Tempo: Angeli Bianchi...Angeli Neri and Sweden – Heaven & Hell. To-Day's Sound is a winner.
Tracks:Open Space; Green Valley; Caretera Panamericana; Goodmorning Sun; To-Day's Sound; Free Dimension; Truck Driver; Blue Lagoon; Wanderer; Lady Magnolia; Pretty; Railroad; Country Town; Bus Stop; Cotton Road; Nocturne; Exploration; Tropical River; Coast to Coast; Safari Club; Music On The Road.
Personnel: Piero Umiliani: moog, Fender Rhodes, Mexican marimba; Marcello Boschi: flute; Mario Midana, Dino Piana, Biagio Marullo: trombone; Oscar Valdambrini, Al Corvin, Marino Di Fulvio: trumpet; Antonello Vannucchi: Hammond organ; Franco D'Andrea: piano, clavichord; Carlo Zoffoli: marimba, vibraphone; Sergio Carnini: Lowery organ; Silvano Carnini, Sergio Coppotelli: guitar; Maurizio Majorana: bass; Giovanni Tommaso: doulbe bass; Enzo Restuccia, Gege Munari: drums, percussion; Cico Ciro: percussion.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.