The drummer Lenny White is championing young musicians and here it is a very talented Italian singer. Recording in New Jersey, Lenny is able to get quite a few of his mates into the studio alongside, I assume, Gambi’s own band, so included in the personnel are Chick Corea, Ron Carter, Patrice Rushen, Gil Goldstein and Gato Barbieri, among others.
The songs, some in English, some in Italian, include originals as well as Prince, Bjork and Letizia’s take on O Sole Mio (gosh, following Cassandra Wilson’s version on Another Country, this tune has turned bus-like).
Gambi sings with a straight, clear alto and that slight touch of an accent to add the charm. The music is best when it is adding accordion and strings to the jazz, and not quite so successful when Lenny indulges in a little fusion (thankfully minimal).
Bradstock is the vocal alter-ego of composer, saxophonist and big band leader Jimmy Cannon. Here he does a very sensible thing for a British jazz musician – instead of going back to the blues base he goes back to an English folk song base.
So, the songs include The Ashgrove, John Barleycorn, Sally In Our Alley, etc. The band iincludes Dorian Ford on piano, Riaan Vosloo on bass and Tim Giles on drums with help from strings and Iain Ballamy playing the saxophone solos on a few.
It’s clearly a genuinely felt project, so I can’t quite pin down why I don’t like the results. I think maybe it is that Bradstock’s singing sounds a little academically detached – he seems keener on articulating the words and following the melody lines than really inhabiting the songs. I’d rather hear Pentangle do Train Song, or Traffic do John Barleycorn (inauthentic as that was) or June Tabor doing absolutely anything, rather than listen to this.
Nice idea but a misfire.
The opener sounds like a cross between Billy Taylor’s I Wish I Knew… and a Keith Jarrett tune, which is no bad place to start. Jeff Holmes is on piano, with Adam Kolker on tenor and soprano, and bass clarinet, James Cammack on bass, both acoustic and electric, and Steve Johns (co-incidently once in Billy Taylor’s band) on drums.
The tunes, when they aren’t originals, are by John Abercrombie or Rodgers & Hammerstein or a couple of others, and generally this is a nice, tight acoustic quartet session with little to upset the apple-cart but little to dislike either.
There is a pleasing propulsion, the solos are intelligent and have a fresh optimism about them, and Holmes sets it all off nicely with some tasty chords and rounded touch. Fine modern jazz with tinges of Latin, gospel and a nice sense of space and pace – try Poinciana as an example.
The late pianist’s brother on guitar and synth guitar in a quartet featuring singer Nathalie Blanc. They tackle some Blanc/Petrucciani originals and a couple of covers, like Alone Together and Summertime, and an intriguing French version of Monk’s Round Midnight.
It’s the originals that are stronger, with the mix of Blanc’s soft, cool, legato vocals contrasting well with the busyness of some of the playing – like Dominique Di Piazza’s blistering bass solo on the title track, for example.
Petrucciani, who wrote tunes for Michel, favours a sweeping chorus-drenched background fill but varies his sound strongly with more classic jazz guitar tone when it’s needed.
The band sounds most comfortable on Latin-flavoured material – try Bahia. And don’t judge this CD by it’s cover which is dismal!