It takes a certain amount of bravery and confidence for a well-established artist to change course as radically as Aldo Romano has. More than four decades into his career as a respected powerhouse jazz drummer, the French-Italian Romano discovered his voice -- literally -- in 2006 when he released Chante, a stunning collection of alluring jazz-informed vocal chansons that redefined what this master musician was all about. Now, on February 5, 2008, Dreyfus Jazz will release etat de fait, which takes Aldo Romano's newly nurtured romance with this hitherto unexplored facet of his talent to a whole other level.
Where Chante found Romano largely interpreting the songs of others, nine of the ten tracks on etat de fait are solely or partially the vision of Romano. Working with a supportive quintet of virtuoso players -- Rmi Vignolo on double bass and drums; Danilo Rea on piano and keyboards; Francesco Bearzatti on tenor saxophone; Mauro Negri on clarinet; and Umberto Trombetta on percussion -- Romano (who plays some guitar in addition to drums and vocals) makes ample use of his unimpeachable jazz chops to bring a polish and sophistication to these recordings of his exquisite and endearing compositions.
Undeniably, etat de fait brings Romano further from the world of progressive jazz in which he has spent the vast majority of his career. Yet he comes to this music naturally, his experience and innate creativity shining through--even on the tracks where the drums have little or no presence at all. The noirish “L'hortensia" falls into that category, a beguiling piece of minimalism that finds only Vignolo's bass accompanying Romano's narrative. So too does “Et L'on Rve," in which Romano's appropriately dreamy whisper, met by Rea's moody piano and Negri's sultry clarinet, instantly transports the listener to a late-night caf on the boulevards of Paris. At the other end of the spectrum, the title track is an exercise in deep urban funk that affords Romano an opportunity to remind us just how commanding his drumming is, and the swinging “Link," one of two instrumentals on etat de fait, gives the entire band a chance to blow at full throttle. Ma Chenka, a female vocalist, adds another texture to the recording by guesting on two tracks.