has a well-established career as a composer, arranger, and film scorer. Amongst other projects, the Italian-born pianist has written soundtracks for major motion pictures, a multitude of pieces for children's television programming, theme songs for a variety of television shows, and has been highly successful with ice ballets. His compositions for Peter Pan
, Snow White
, and Beauty and the Beast
have been taken to the ice all over Europe. He has also composed pop music. Coupled with a background in classical music and his more recent alliance with opera, you might wonder what any of this has to do with jazz. The answer is nothing. With Variations of Relevance
, Amato ventures into uncharted waters. As stepping out of one's comfort zone is never easy, Amato is to be admired for boldly choosing to follow his heart into the jazz genre.
All but the last song on this record are Amato originals. Uniquely, it's also music written for a soundtrack reworked into jazz compositions. It's intriguing to see/hear what transpires from this unconventional framework. Equally of interest is Amato's feel for jazz. Reconstructing and/or reimagining a song isn't the same thing as playing it with a touch that renders itself to jazz.
The first song is wisely and sumptuously accompanied by the great Randy Brecker
. Brecker is fluent in many languages, but his first and most deeply understood vocabulary is jazz. "Between the Clouds" finds Amato softly embedding with acoustic bassist Trey Henry
and guitarist Thom Rotella
. Brecker's nuanced and serene trumpet lines languish in a soft paradise. Slipping into something even more comfortable, Amato joins in conversation with Henry, Rotella, and drummer Jimmy Branly
in the fragrant and uplifting melody "Blue Roses." The dialogue then shifts into perhaps Amato's most thought-provoking piece. "Ligeti" has the pianist engrossed with Branly and Jimmy Haslip
on electric bass in this absorbing and creative piece.
With confidence, Amato then walks alone through the quiet yet bright lit evening sky in "Night of the 7 Moons." The delicate stroll is later embraced by the lush sound of the Budapest Scoring Orchestra. A reflective Amato is again at one with "Rimembranze." He is left to ponder his life in a poignant and singular silhouette, as his delicate and poetic touch on the instrument begins to come to the fore. The soft intensity builds in the tender melody born to "Scarlett Letters." Amato is flush with emotions, as Branly and Henry return polished and brushed with sensitivity and allure.
Haslip is again Branly's rhythm section mate in the aptly named "Sonnet Melancholia." Cellist Artyom Manukyan
joins in, along with flautist Laura Stincer
. An array of feelings are delicately captured by Amato and company. The ensemble is further bolstered by the Budapest Scoring Orchestra. At the core is sadness, explored and expressed deeply. Sad, but illuminating in its depth and broadness of scope. In need of raising the tempo, it was the right time to unleash Brecker for his second foray on the record. Amato also had Henry and Manukyan, and once again the Budapest Scoring Orchestra on board for "Truthful Intentions." Brecker's timbre shines against the backdrop. Playing with vigor, he made every note count with purposeful intent and pacing.
The finale is the only non-original on the record. It also arguably doesn't fit well with the other eight tunes. However, one could also argue that when a song is played as well as "Three Views of a Secret," you just have to include it. Besides, music is supposed to be fun. An unexpected joy ride at the end of a record would seem to translate to fun. Aside from Amato, an entirely different cast is in place for this take on the Jaco Pastorius
classic. Electric bassist Jurgen Attig
, drummer Gary Novak
, harmonicist Gregoire Maret
, and Scott Kinsey
on synths aligned for a bold rendition. No, it didn't quite fit with a mostly soft and reflective record. But if we are allowed to not take these things too seriously, it might just leave you with a smile on your face.
Whether Amato will continue down this path or return to film scoring, or possibly both, it would seem clear that he has the goods to play and compose jazz. He has
that intangible feel that you either have or don't have.
Between The Clouds; Blue Roses; Ligeti; Night Of The 7 Moons; Rimembranze; Scarlet Letters; Sonnet
Melancholia; Thruthful Intentions; Three Views Of A Secret