We live in a clangorous world. You don’t have to live across the street from a dance studio specializing in zumba (as I do) to know this.
The collective tempo we have created for ourselves is very quick, the volume level is high, the intensity is fierce. Often all I want to hear is the sound of people singing through their instruments, leaving those rapid-fire flurries of notes for another time. I don’t mean “smooth jazz”; rather, Ben Webster or Teddy Wilson playing a ballad; the Basie rhythm section; a Herb Ellis blues.
This is not a grumpy complaint about these dratted Modern Times, for many living musicians understand and exemplify this principle in their art, in the face of the tyrannical sixty-fourth note.
A new CD — two sets of duets by three masterful musicians, recorded in 2013 — is one answer to this hectic world, evidence that swinging beauty is still within reach. It is simply perfect — hence my title.
Here’s a sample, Cole Porter’s I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA (think of Bing, Grace Kelly, and Louis):
and the leisurely swinging EV’RYTHING I’VE GOT BELONGS TO YOU:
The tenor saxophonist is MATTEO RAGGI; the pianist is PAOLO ALDERIGHI; the guitarist DAVIDE BRILLANTE. (I’ve had the immense good fortune to meet and record Paolo and Davide — Mario and I remain separated by several thousand miles, but this CD is as good as having him come to visit.) You can hear more of Matteo on YouTube — he’s on there alongside Scott Hamilton, which is a high peak to be standing on — as well as Davide and Paolo, but this disc is special.
Each of the three is a lyrical player, a melodist at heart. As you’ve heard, each one is skilled in constructing logical solos on his own, and masterful in the delicate art of duet playing — more subtle than verbal conversational dances but built on the same principles of individuality giving way to harmonically sensitive teamwork. The music is the very opposite of soporific, because something is always happening rhythmically, even on the slowest ballad, but it will not make you feel as if you have stepped into the supercharged urban world.
Lester Young would have loved these sessions, and no one here is copying him, but the spirit is much the same. (On that note: those readers who listen and want to play what Barbara Lea called “the game of Sounding Like” can get ready with their names. Matteo sounds just like A, or perhaps B; Paolo like C or D; Davide like E or F — definitely! But why not listen to these players on their own, rather than painting them as small living figures in the shadows of dead giants?)
Half of the ten selections are duets with Paolo (CHINATOWN; GHOST OF A CHANCE; I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA; I’M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET; ON THE ALAMO); half with Davide (THE RED DOOR; COME RAIN OR COME SHINE; JITTERBUG WALTZ; POW-WOW; EV’RYTHING I’VE GOT BELONGS TO YOU).
Beautiful recorded sound (much better than on the YouTube videos) and casually erudite notes. Now all that’s left to do is for you to find out more about Matteo and to buy the CD. Try here!
Fratelli, grazie — for the fine sweet floating music.
May your happiness increase!