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Umbria Jazz Winter #18 Days 3-5: December 31, 2010-January 2, 2011

Umbria Jazz Winter #18 Days 3-5: December 31, 2010-January 2, 2011
Sara Villa By

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Days 1-2 | Days 3-5

Umbria Jazz Winter #18
Orvieto, Italy
December 29, 2010-January 2, 2011
The Alfredo Rodriguez Trio
Discovered, produced and hailed by Quincy Jones, Alfredo Rodriguez chose to contradict any potential preconception linked with the highly slippery definition of Latin Jazz to which his Cuban origins tie him. From the very first composition at his Umbria Jazz Winter performance, the young pianist's "Silence," it was clear that Rodriguez was avoiding more solar and joyful sonorities in favor of a sense of baroque melancholia, also building around obsessively repeated lead themes, as in "Transculturacion."

The young pianist openly demonstrated the threads of classical conservatory training, united with a more specifically jazz pedigree, which is undoubtedly imbued with a lot of Keith Jarrett and Bud Powell, to whom he dedicated his "Cu-Bop." In spite of the recognizable Cuban rhythmic variations which marked many of his tempos, during his most original pieces Rodriguez almost seemed to want to play jazz on a harpsichord—turning his piano into a hybrid instrument of a more baroque, metallic nature.

Rodriguez's bassist, Peter Slavov, preferred a soft, nonintrusive mellowness, while drummer Francisco Mela opted for a loud and controllably chaotic intro to "Oxygen," achieved by leaving a free cymbal vibrating on his tom. This choice worked harmoniously with the dark emotional palette which inhabited the core of Rodriguez's composition.

In the end, an extremely controlled and tenderness-filled solo version of "Stille Nacht" showed the other face of Rodriguez's musicianship, and gave a glimpse of the possible future evolutions of his arrangements of preexisting standards.


Quintorigo Play Mingus, Special Guest Maria Pia de Vito

Known for their creative rearrangements of compositions ranging from Mozart to The Beatles to Herbie Hancock, the Italian group Quintorigo—featuring saxophonist Valentino Bianchi, cellist Gionata Costa, violinist Andrea Costa and bassist Stefano Ricci, and with special guest vocalist Maria Pia de Vito—delivered a marvelously orchestrated tribute to Charles Mingus. De Vito's voice, undoubtedly one of the most charismatic and intensely emotional voices of contemporary Italian jazz, introduced the audience to Mingus' life with anecdotal pearls before each piece.

Mingus' first love with the cello, as a young boy, was mirrored by an exquisitely unexpected pizzicato in "Fables of Faubus," recalling the heartbeat of a young master, perceiving his destiny through the strings' sound. Piece-after-piece, all the strings seemed to alternatively morph into Mingus' double-bass, reaching the heights of this transformation in their syncopated, film noir-like intro to "Moaning," which the sax followed with a rarefied purity of sound.



De Vito's sharp, yet delicate vocals first became one with the strings, and then led them with up-tempo scat-singing, leaving limpid, emotional marks on the texture of Quintorigo's arrangements. Her powerful expressiveness filled the air, accompanied by Quintorigo's humming and hand-clapping on "Freedom," in a way faithful to Mingus' original version. Her voice grew deeper and deeper, and the limpid amplitude of the refrain's notes filled the air with the sacredness of the spiritual tradition.




Ray Anderson's Pocket Brass Band / Brass Bang!

Trombonist Ray Anderson's brass quartet—also featuring trumpeter Lew Soloff, sousaphonist Matt Perrine and drummer Bobby Previte—joyfully opened the evening at Teatro Mancinelli, with the humorous, sympathetic register of a marching band on a spring day.

Each instrument represented the character in a conversation that ended naturally, in smiles and laughter, the audience feeling so rejuvenated that they started dancing in their seats. Anderson presented a diverse program, including a piece taken from his larger composition, "Sweet Chicago Suite," recreating the feeling of 1960s Chicago and a tribute to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, filled with the experimental moments which are a key signature of his own experience within the organization.


Ray Anderson's Pocket Brass Band, from left: Lew Soloff, Ray Anderson, Matt Perine

This bouncy and festive mood was even pervasive of the transition between Anderson's Pocket Brass Band and trumpeter Paolo Fresu's Brass Bang—Anderson's final piece turned into a real, marching band occasion: both groups invaded the audience area, playing together and mixing with the joyful, hand-clapping public .

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