Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Taste of Italy: Review of Roberto Magris & the Europlane Orchestra' s "Current Views"

CD: Current Views
(Soul Note 121425-OD)

Italian Pianist Roberto Magris has established a floating, predominantly eastern European based orchestra that goes under the title Europlane. The elastic nature of this group allows him to interchange various talented musicians as time and their scheduling availability allow. Make no mistake; it is Magris that is the driving force behind this endeavor. He has a passion for large group, big band arrangements where the multi-instrument format allows him a huge palette on which to paint his musical visions. Magris has consistently offered high quality productions, often times with surprisingly emotive veteran collaborators like, altoist Herb Geller, drummer Jimmy “Junebug” Jackson and bassist Art Davis. My favorite iteration of his Europlane format to date has been his previously released “Check-In”,with the smoking Tony Lakatos on saxophone.
On this compilation of his music, recorded live at three different venues, Magris has assembled an enjoyable representation of some of these memorable performances. It is refreshing to get a chance to hear some fine European musicians
; many whom I have never had the pleasure of hearing before, playing behind the inspirational force that is Roberto Magris.
On The Story Teller Magris uses a beautiful Italian folk song as the basis for his melody. He expands from this theme with a dynamic horn section, and the guitar styling of the great Philip Catherine’s gently wailing electric guitar. Catherine is an impressionistic player of top order. His recent collaboration with the recently passed saxophonist Charlie Mariano on The Great Concert, a fine example of this talented musician's breath. For his part, Magris’s percussive piano solos have a strong McCoy Tyner influence, with a driven approach that envelopes the music in a warm, blanket of sound. These two artists make this one special .The song also features a Shorter-esque soprano solo by Marco Castelli that sails above the pulsing horn and rhythm sections.

Dukish Interlude starts out with an impressionistic introduction that is seemingly inspired by Duke Ellington. It nonetheless reminds me of Milton Nasciemento’s Ponta De Areia from Wayne Shorter’s fine album Native Dancer
The hauntingly beautiful combination of the arco playing of Vitold Rek on bass along with the tubular sound of Molenhof’s vibes demonstrates Magris’ strong arrangement and his compositional talent. The song settles into a nice groove featuring a serpentine sounding alto solo by Kyrstof Bacso. The song reprises to the vibes/ arco bass duo that bookends the piece back to its original exotic sound.

The only standard on the album is Jerome Kern’s Love in Vain which gets a boisterous, swinging horn section intro before yielding to Molenhof’s vibes and a tenor solo by Muenchinger.

Hombres is a Latin inspired tune that features a facile bass solo by Rek, leaving no doubt that the man can play. Drummer Gabrielle Centis anchors the song with his effective sense of Latin rhythms.

React is a hard driving modal piece inspired by what Magris calls “the Black Stream” of the 70’s jazz music coming from America. Here Magris shows his capacity to play with great kinetics; in the modal, rhythmic style reminiscent of such artist’s as Tyner and Mingus’ pianist Don Pullen. Ottaviano sends the song into the stratosphere with a spirited soprano solo that reminds me of a young Dave Liebman on fire. This one cooks.

Steady Mood” has the predictably languishing sound of the theme to a detective movie. Basco’s particularly silky solo on alto builds on the sultry mood that Magris is setting. Molenhof’s vibes rounds the edges, with a smooth cool sound, as Magris and his rhythm section bring the song though its paces.

For Naima” is actually a dedication, but not to John Coltrane’s wife of the same name. It is instead dedicated to Magris’s daughter whose name was inspired by the Coltrane composition. It has a straightforward swinging vibe where Magris plays Fender Rhodes, with its distinctive 70’s sound, and is joined by soloists Lackner on alto, Schreck on rousing trombone and a swinging Darko Jurovic on guitar.

While not as powerful for me as “Check-In”
the live performance captured on Roberto Magris & the Europlane Orchestra’s "Current Views""is a worthy addition to any big band music collection.

All Recorded Live: #1 September 20, 2002 Casa della Musica,Trieste, Italy) #2,34,5,&6 July 21, 2003, Italy Cassa della Musica, Trieste, Italy #7 recorded November 23, 2001, Teatro Gustavo da Modena, Palmanova, Italy

Musicians: Roberto Magris (piano and arranger); Gabriele Centis (drums); Kristof Basco ( alto on 2,3,4,5& 6); Roberto Ottaviano ( tenor & soprano sax on 2, 3,4, 5&6); Vitold Rek ( bass on 2,3, 4, 5 & 6); Christian Muenschinger (tenor sax 2,3,4,5& 6) ; Bill Molenhof (vibes on 2,3,4, &6); Philip Catherine (guitar on 1); Julius Baros ( trumpet on #7); Rado Tariska (alto on 1); Marko Lacker (alto sax on 7); Marco Castelli (soprano on 1 & tenor sax on 7);Loje Krajncan (trombone on #1); Ferenc Schrek (trombone on #7);Darko Jurovic (guitar on 7);Frantisek Uhlir ( bass on 1 & 7).

All compositions and arrangements by Roberto Magris except In Love in Vain composed by L. Robin & J. Kern arranged by Roberto Magris

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