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Claudio Fasoli Emerald Quartet: Venice Inside

Ian Patterson By

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On Venice Inside, saxophonist Claudio Fasoli pays homage to the city of his birth. The song titles reveal that Fasoli's inspiration comes from the storied past, the stunning architecture and the unique atmosphere of the churches, plazas, cobbled streets, bridges, waterways and islands which make up the soul of this one-of-a-kind city.

In times past, when Venice was an independent republic, it was known as La Serenissima (the most serene)—in spite of centuries of conflict and war. Nevertheless, the biggest worry for Venetians today is not so much invading armies as the possibility that the city is sinking, albeit very slowly. Perhaps it is this feared watery end which is reflected in the melancholy of Fasoli's soprano saxophone. It is a melancholy combined with a near reverential serenity in much of the ensemble playing.

Most of the nine compositions begin with a single voice, be it the piano of Mario Zara on "Riotera" and "Arcana," the earthy bass of Yuri Goloubev on "Aponal," or the butterfly wings percussion of Marco Zanoli on the bluesy "Stae."These are tunes which, like a good grappa, ferment slowly, gaining in potency.

Fasoli favors the romantic possibilities of the piano to bring an air of nostalgic reflection to the music, and for much of the recording Zara's keys are gently supportive of Fasoli's more forceful playing. The exception is on "Stae," where Zara unfolds a lovely, expansive solo which oozes lyricism as it gathers momentum, powered by the insistent rhythmic support provided by Goloubev and Zanoli. With Fasoli sitting out, this striking trio piece concludes with a percussive statement from Zanoli.

There is a slightly Arabic undertone to "Arogarb" which begins with Fasoli on soprano, shadowed closely by Goloubev's wonderfully resonant arco. The exclusion of piano—as much as Zanoli's interesting percussive chitter and hand drums—lends an eastern flavor to this atmospheric piece. It is difficult to discern which of the three is leading here, as the distinct voices of all three protagonists blend to create a deceptively powerful musical brew.

Fasoli's playing throughout the recording is confident and assured, reaching furthest on "Rialto," with an uninhibited improvisation. Fasoli favors keening soprano on all but one of the tracks, adopting ruminative tenor for the balladic "Cannaregio," an evocative duet for tenor and piano. The closing "Squero" is another softly voiced duet between Zanoli and Fasoli, and closes the album as serenely as it begins.

Italians generally have a refined sense of taste in most things (with the notable exceptions of their political arena and television shows), and this refinement is heard in the architecture of the compositions, which like the city the music exalts is both beautiful and simple in its form and lasting effect.

It would be difficult to pick out one track over the others for special mention, as each track is strong, and each has its distinct personality. Fasoli has crafted a seductive recording of chamber-like intimacy which beguiles and invites repeated visits, like Venice itself.

Track Listing: Riotera; Aponal; Arcana; Arogarb; Stae; Giudecca; Rialto; Cannaregio; Squero.

Personnel: Claudio Fasoli: soprano & tenor sax; Mario Zara: piano; Yuri Goloubev: bass; Marco Zanoli: drums.

Title: Venice Inside | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Blue Serge

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