|If Charles Mingus reincarnated at all he must have reincarnated into an Italian boy called Enrico Fazio. This is the second CD by Enrico Fazio for Leo Records, the first one achieving an instant success with the writers (it got a choc in Jazzmann, France). There are some important changes in the line-up. The violinist Emanuele Parrini adds a new light touch to Enrico's exuberant and powerful music. With this CD Enrico Fazio presents his septet as a significant force on the international new music scene.
Recorded live at Villa Litta, Milano on 27 August 2004.
One Final Note Review Italians have long had an affinity for jazz. Italian immigrants and their children adopted it early on and made major contributions while the music was still in its infancy. Yet the home country has produced its own crop of major talent, drawing inspiration from American styles that evolved with free jazz into music rooted in Italy’s native soil. Some of the most vibrant, kicking expressions of the jazz impulse emanate from Europe’s boot. While it’s dangerous to generalize about so varied a scene, the Italians bring to the table their own ingredients—echoes of belle canto, a love of folk music both from their own soil and abroad, a broad sense of humor, and an exuberance that often expresses itself in flouting expectations.
That vivaciousness comes to the fore on Enrico Fazio’s Live in Milano—Villa Litta. The septet is built around a core trio of long-time collaborators, the leader on bass, drummer Fiorenzo Sordini on drums and percussion, and multi-reed wizard Carlo Actis Dato. Fazio nails down the groove from the beginning. The music, which can range from singsong nursery rhymes to expressionistic wailing, always maintains its connection to dance. The opening “Compagni di Merengue” sashays along into triple meter, disrupted by a fanfare figure. The piece serves to introduce the solo voices of trumpeter Falzone (who is off and blowing within seconds of the opening), violinist Emanuele Parrini, trombonist Gianpiero Malfatto, alto saxophonist Francesco Aroni Vigone, and Dato. Yet Fazio, who penned all the songs, uses ensemble breaks and background figures to keep the composition on track.
The fancifully titled “When Enrico Met the Pink Floyd (at Perpignan Station)” demonstrates more an affinity for African jazz than a nod to the British art rockers. Fazio ratchets up the rhythm, though, as the song opens up for an extended spot of heated bowing from Parrini. The solo reaches its climax with a raw, repeated figure sawed out over a hummable horn line. That episode is characteristic of the way Fazio interlocks improvisation with ensemble. Humor is also evident in the following track, “Ciao Jack!”, which opens with a ballad statement by Malfatto on flute over some gentle pizzicato by Parrini, but ends with a sudden burst of “Three Blind Mice”. It’s clear that these are not mere blowing tunes, but rather fully formed compositions intended to be realized by improvisers working together in an ensemble. Fazio asserts the unity not only in the way he marshals the horns, but also in the way he voices his own assertive bass underneath the ensemble.
The critical cliché here would be to evoke Mingus, and while there are Mingus-like elements, the music is quite distinctly different in melodic character and emotional tone. Mostly this is not one man bullying the band forward, but one man guided and interacting with a group of colleagues. That’s evident on “Walkabout”, where Fazio sets the tone with almost four minutes of trenchant solo work that comes off more as an elaboration of his walking line. Malfatto demonstrates quite a different ballad approach here on trombone, gutsy and gritty, summoning his inner tailgater.
Fazio keeps the ensemble on pace through the four remaining extended tracks on the session—“Isole”, “Igor”, “Euphoria”, and “Banana Split”—each possessing its share of improvised and composed felicities. Dato, on bass clarinet, leads a ragtag march through the circus on “Igor” and then blows full bore, again on bass clarinet, on the high-stepping shout tune “Euphoria”. He leads off a round of compact raucous solos and horn interjections that sound on the brink of devolving into a free-for-all, but instead end on a lovely sustained chord. The band closes by returning to an Afro-groove. Parinni plucks her violin’s strings, evoking a kora before the horns swing and sway off into the sunset.