Harold Ross, who edited THE NEW YORKER, once wrote, “Talent doesn’t care where it resides.” I think of jazz improvisation as a secret beautiful art. Although the players are happy to have a receptive audience, often the audience’s inattention matters not at all, for the players are creating something that we happen to eavesdrop on.
This was the feeling that the Beloved and I had listening to pianist Rossano Sportiello and string bassist Neal Miner last Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, at Sofia’s Ristorante (211 West 46th Street). I had originally entertained thoughts of going there as a civilian — an ordinary listener with nothing more complicated in his hands than his drink, but the music was so quietly eloquent that I started videotaping and then asked permission of Rossano and Neal when they took a breather.
Listening to Rossano, one hears his delicate touch, his rhythms (romping or subtle), his orchestral sense of the piano balanced with crystal-clear lines, his unerring ear for what Coleman Hawkins called “the choice notes.” And Neal Miner embodies swinging persuasiveness. Bass players usually get less attention than people with shiny horns. Understandable in a way: the bass is in the lowest register and it stands to the rear of the background. But the horn players I know admire the shape and scope of Neal’s lines and would be delighted to have invented them.
On some of these performances, the audience is somewhat interactive. You’ll hear someone’s comment when Rossano began to play a dreamy Liszt piece, “What is this, classical music?” Yes, sir. Classical and classic in the best senses of the words. And rather than be annoyed at the people who chatted while the music was being created, I would simply hope that they went home subliminally elated by the fine loving sounds. Maybe, with luck, someone might think, “At that bar there’s really nice background music . . . ”
Early in the evening, a breezy optimism prevailed — even in the face of current economic reality, as the duo swung into THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE:
A Basie improvisation on I GOT RHYTHM changes that began as JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE and then went its own merry ways:
Indecision was never so pleasantly propulsive as in this UNDECIDED:
And the unexpected high point of the two sets — Liszt’s CONSOLATION # 3 in Db . . . a sweet musing exploration . . . then Rossano took a breath and turned the corner with Neal — uptown — to STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY:
And this set concluded with Tadd Dameron’s GOOD BAIT:
Talent, taking up temporary residence on 46th Street. Beauty in the corner. Much to be thankful for.