Umbria Jazz Winter in Orvieto 2006-2007
Choulai's dynamic, rhythmic contributions and effective counter-melodies were best heard sans horns due to a deficiency in the house mix (a very rare exception to the festival's overall excellent sound board jobs and acoustics), though this would improve over the course of the week. The Italian hornmen had vastly different approaches: Scannapieco densely packed non-stop note-filled runs into his furious tempi of solos until red in the face, while Ionata patiently performed more melodic breathy lines. Frahm (though with somewhat lackluster contributions from his bassist Joe Martin and drummer Joe Campbell) took the strong suits of each saxophonist and in essence blew them off the bandstand with dominating technical proficiency and creative modal lines, all while maintaining a melodic thread, playing both with and against time.
Proof, however, that Italian jazz musicians are nothing if not on equal footing with their American counterparts (as has actually been the case for some time now) was displayed in the final evening of the festival for, yet again, another packed house at the Teatro Mancinelli. which witnessed telepathic give and take between one of Italy's most respected trumpeter/flugelhornists, Paolo Fresu, and pianist Uri Caine. The duo also exemplified a point made earlier: Italian jazz musicians have particularly come to utilize and exploit their country's pop material, which has adequately aged like a ripened grape being plucked and readied into a fine jazzed-up wine.
Fresu, slouching to the side in his seat, his rear barely planted, resembled a seven footer, sitting legs-stretched-out uncomfortably in economy versus business class and flying half-way around the world. Musically unaffected evidently, from the concert opener "Dear Old Stockholm" (a rendition that more insinuated the rhythm than spoon-fed it to listeners), "Night In Tunisia" and "I Loves You Porgy" (Fresu playing muted trumpet before switching to flugelhorn for the extended breath-heavy coda section), to Monteverdi's "Si dolce e il tormento" (on muted trumpet, revealing Fresu's preference for not playing an open horn trumpet, to maintain the mood of this set) and the trumpet-only encore "E Se Domani" (a famous '60s Italian pop song that Caine knew yet wisely decided to keep his hands off of)the mix of American and Italian repertoire served as an elastic springboard for solo and duo improvisations.
The silence that followed Fresu's final notes that initially were meant to entice Caine to contribute still ring in these ears as the festival's official and more sensible end, even though Fresu's Devil Quartet closed the evening's second set in less sentimental fashion due to their overuse of un-acoustic "effects" (by both Fresu and his guitarist Bebo Ferra), serving up an extraneous fifth member to the ensemble and nearly erasing the beautiful tones that quite literally echoed throughout the previous set within the many musical spaces left by and between Caine, Fresu, the concert hall and the witnessing ears of those in attendance.
Roberta Gambarini at Teatro Mancinelli by Giorgio Alto
Renato Sellani, Danilo Rea, Giovanni Tommaso, Enzo Pietropaoli at Museo Emilio Greco by Laurence Donohue-Greene
Stefano Bollani at Teatro Mancinelli by Laurence Donohue-Greene
Lew Soloff with Billy Hart at Palazzo del Popolo by Laurence Donohue-Greene
Ken Peplowski at Palazzo Dei Sette by Laurence Donohue-Greene
Roy Hargrove at Teatro Mancinelli by Giorgio Alto
Paolo Fresu at Teatro Mancinelli by Giorgio Alto