Who would have thought Elton John's music could resonate into jazzmen's hearts deep enough to dare record a whole album of his songs? Well, whoever or wherever it comes from, a nice melody is a nice melody, one could rightfully retort to the skeptical, frowning few. Saxophonist Pietro Tonolo, a mainstay on the Italian jazz scene, convincingly rises to producer Michele Locatelli's somewhat challenging idea. Supporting him in the venture are deconstructivist drummer Paul Motian, bassist Steve Swallow and Grammy Award-winning arranger and pianist/accordionist Gil Goldstein. And, like the quartet's previous homage release, Portrait Of Duke (Label Bleu, 2000,) Your Songs also contains originals inspired by the portrayed composers.
The opener, "Blue Eyes, parted of its soppy lyric, remains a memorable ballad. But it is the first phrases of Tonolo's solo (on the stock chord changes) that garners attention. His slick playing and dry tone swishes like a capricious Mediterranean wind. In fact, all three players are pure melodists, and everyone feels right at home in the harmonically unencumbered arrangements of these popular tunes, letting their own melodies and lines cozily rub against Motian's freewheeling, punctuated flux.
One such noted exchange is Goldstein's interaction with the drummer on the Monk-ish arrangement of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, where he subtly alludes to Motian's past employer's unique stride piano-influenced style and use of fast scalar passages. The pianist's solo on "Rocket Man, played here as a jazz waltz, is just as interesting. Starting with a three-note idea, he then alternates over-the-bar lines, triplet phrases with bop-ish, 16th notes flurries and shorter melodic ideas.
The program's only weak spots are the endings to "Tiny Dancer and "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. The latter ends with a heretic fade-out, and reversely, the former's coda could have been stretched out a few more bars.
The session's underpinning vision of pairing accessible, charted hits with brilliant musicianship succeeds, with its focused and sober presentation, in flattering the ears of connoisseurs and neophytes alike.
Blue Eyes; Tiny Dancer; Rocket Man; Your Song; One; Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word; White Street; Epilogue: Semifonte.
Pietro Tonolo: tenor amd soprano saxophone; Gil Goldstein; piano, accordion; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Paul Motian: drums.