Daniele Cavallanti

Faces and Tales
Rudi Records RRJ1013

An extravagant gift to himself and CD buyers, Milan-based tenor and baritone saxophonist Daniele Cavallanti put together the exhilarating concert captured on this two-CD set to celebrate his 60th birthday. Throughout Cavallanti’s canny arrangements properly display the skills of 10 of Italy’s top improvisers on his own compositions plus two standards. Without argument Faces and Tales confirms that Italian jazzers don’t have to take a back seat to anyone in terms of imagination and skill.

Dedicated to two departed tenor saxophonists: South African-Dutch Sean Bergin and American David S. Ware, and covering two Duke Ellington-associated tunes, “African Flower” and “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”, Cavallanti lays out his influences for all to see. Oriented towards Begin’s African variants on the blues as well as Ware’s stratospheric tonal variations that reference John Coltrane, Cavallanti`s writing and playing options also take in the work of Ducal tenor men like Ben Webster and Big Al Sears plus baritone saxophonist Harry Carney. At the same time the band`s treatment of those and other tracks also nods to another Ellington devotee, bassist Charles Mingus, plus his outstanding sax soloists including Booker Ervin Pepper Adams and Shafi Hadi.

From the beginning, with his own “Creative Mesa” Cavallanti’s Mediterranean sensibility is such that arrangements are well-organized and overwrought at the same time. Here, for instance, the expressive exposition is widened still further as tutti passages alternate with locked hand cascades from pianist Fabrizio Puglisi, a heroic and capillary outburst from trumpeter Luca Calabrese and an expressive solo from the composer. Tiziano Tononi’s perfectly timed clanks and ruffs are a constant enthusiasm stimulator both here and throughout the disc, while the dual bass team of Silvia Bolognesi and Andrea Di Biase maintains a swinging pulse. To add to the tension-release, horn-section undulations fill in the spaces left by other outstanding sound manifestations, that include a Cavallanti solo that wends its way from renal to stratospheric, with unique perpendicular lines.

Others of these architecturally performances are crafted and layered so that Andalusian and Arabic folkloric tropes are balanced along with the South-African exile and Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians-like experimentation. For instance, “Trance Minutes” a well-crafted barn burner, gets its shape from the pianist’s double-timed and tremolo syncopation that jut out among rowdy smears from the horns. Reed solo honors go to the heart-breaking lines vibrated from Cavallanti’s tenor and the R&B-like smears and squeals from baritone saxophonist Carlo Actis Dato. Similarly the accelerating and diminishing reed-and-brass curtain frequently pulls back enough to expose fiddle splices and spikes from Emanuele Parrini. Although these string plucks bring out compositional nuances, when the climaxes are reached, decorative textures don’t distract from the funky underpinning.

Besides providing a sympathetic setting for an alto saxophonist Gianluigi Trovesi that is more Bird (Charlie Parker)-like than Rabbit (Johnny Hodges)-like on one track and giving trombonist Lauro Rossi space for some pseudo-gutbucket work on the other, both covers merely confirm the precision playing of this well-matched ensemble. Some of the timbres almost move into soundtrack territory. Plus this tendency is exacerbated on a couple of tranches of the cinema-salutes which make up the “Faces” suite; other parts are far less moving. On the plus side, absorbing film scores could be made from arranger/composer Cavallanti’s underlining Actis Dato’s bass clarinet warbles and Rossi’s trombone blats with late-night piano trio accompaniment on “Bertolucci”. Additionally contrasting the dislocating timbres of pseudo-clavichord key clashes with double bass plucks during the narrative on “Wenders” may suggest a potential storyline.

All and all, without even detailing Cavallanti’s considerable improvising skills on baritone sax and flute, plus the high-octane percussion fuel Tononi continuously adds to all the tunes, Faces and Tales rates the highest praise. More jazz fans than just Italian ones should experience it.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1: 1. Creative Mesa; 2. Faces: 2-1. Shadows 2-2 Cassavetes 2-3 Bertolucci 2-4. Jarmusch 2-5. Wenders 2-6. Eastwood CD2: 1. Trance Minutes 2. Sound of Hope 3. African Flower 4. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be 5. Raphael’s Walk

Personnel: Luca Calabrese (trumpet); Lauro Rossi (trombone); Gianluigi Trovesi (alto saxophone); Daniele Cavallanti (tenor and baritone saxophones, nay and flute); Carlo Actis Dato (baritone saxophone and bass clarinet); Emanuele Parrini (violin); Fabrizio Puglisi (piano); Silvia Bolognesi and Andrea Di Biase (bass) and Tiziano Tononi (drums)