It is a satisfying musical experience when a performance can deliver traditional jazz without the music being reduced to orthodoxy. Such is the resonance of Franco D'Andrea's sound.
The seventy-something Italian pianist follows Soprais (El Gallo Rojo, 2011), with his long-established quartet, by adding the early jazz instruments of clarinet and trombone, played respectively by Daniele D'Argaro and Mauro Ottolini. On the live Traditions And Clusters he also invites his contemporary , drummer Han Bennink, to sit in on two tracks.
With Bennink in the house, the music skates, skips, and glides between what was once the new thing (circa 1920) to the new thing, without becoming estranged. The opener, clocking in at 24 minutes boils "I've Found A New Baby" (made famous by Benny Goodman's Orchestra) before segueing into Lennie Tristano's "Turkish Mambo," and then George Gershwin's "Strawberries." Decorated by clarinet and trombone, the conventional gets a kick in the backside. Same for Duke Ellington's standard "Caravan," that is referred to as context, but not as a limiter on D'Andrea's examinations.
These are not neocons faithfully reproducing a bygone era, but prospectors mining the past for modern innovation. D'Andrea, like Thelonious Monk before him, begins in the jazz tradition, but twists the sound to make it his own. The Clusters referred to in the title are group improvisations by his quartet that are takeoffs on D'Andrea originals or a song penned by Billy Strayhorn. Drummer Zeno De Rossi (perhaps the modern heir to the Bennink sound) replaces Bennink and saxophonist Andrea Ayassot and bassist Aldo Mella remain a stable improvising component to D'Andrea's quartet.
The second disc finds the D'Andrea Quartet expanded to a sextet with D'Agaro and Ottolini. The band once again mines Ellington Strayhorn, and Tristano, as well as touches of Chick Corea and Misha Mengelberg. The delicate dance, push and pull between traditional jazz and the abstraction of free music get a crowd-pleasing workout here.
1-1. I've Found A New Baby + Turkish Mambo + Strawberries (From Porgy And Bess) 24:41
1-2. Clusters N.1 + Monodic 8:36
1-3. Clusters N.2 + Half The Fun 10:18
1-4. Clusters N.3 2:47
1-5. Caravan 8:10