Monday, March 13, 2017

Alessandro La Corte 5et - Smile in Winter (ALFA MUSIC 2017)

Alessandro La Corte has been actively performing for over a quarter of a century, and he is an important animator of the jazz scene in Salerno and the Campania region of southern Italy, where this pianist and arranger has orientated himself with ease (and still does so) and where he has had the opportunity to play with almost all of the great jazz musicians of this part of the world. La Corte’s musical heart seems to beat to the piano rhythms of McCoy Tyner, especially the less academic and studied style that the latter adopted when playing with various groups in the seventies, when his creative maturity as an instrumentalist, soloist and composer had reached the summit of its development.

In this album this fact is absolutely evident not only in the track specifically dedicated to the African American artist, but also in the harmonic approach, and in the peculiar spirit of the modal-tonal game that Tyner made famous and that has remained his trademark. This is a dense kind of music with a crescendo of emotional intensity that La Corte has created in his role as the leader of a quintet, within which he leaves ample room for the solo piano, for the canonical trio featuring double-bass and drums, and for displaying his great talents as an arranger. When he writes for a big band, La Corte alternates fullness and emptiness, and he gives the wind instruments a sound that is compact and rich, but also light, and almost fluffy in the parts for the horns. The use of the baritone sax, which clearly stands out in almost plastic relief from the unified orchestral sound, is very distinctive.

The music that La Corte has written for the jazz quintet has a particularly pressing and closely-knit rhythm, which always keeps the pace of the gradual crescendos of intensity and the changing directions of his music. He makes the most of two saxophonists – Jerry Popolo and Carla Marciano – each of whom has a very different style and with whom he can emphasise the creative contrasts that so strongly distinguish his own approach to making music. The former draws nourishment from the great tradition of the jazz tenor sax, while adopting a modern style, expressing himself with warmth and melodic clarity, and giving his phrasing a spacious sound that is full of harmonics, which add a special depth and emphasis to each individual note. The latter, who is also the pianist’s partner and companion, clearly sees John Coltrane as her main point of reference and she uses the saxophone with great intensity, with a torrential, lacerating and penetrating flow with of notes, supported by an excellent technical approach to the instrument.

Popolo and Marciano work together to create a broad palette of many different colours and they complement each other by giving an orchestral feel also to pieces written for a small ensemble, thereby showing how very congenial they are to the pianist’s attitude. After all his choice of musical partners has to be based on the characteristics of the music as well as his own plans and intentions in his role as the frontman or leader, because he can only achieve his artistic goals in the company of musicians whose attitude is perfectly in harmony with his own ideas. This record has therefore been realized with musicians who are intimately involved in the project. Its historical reference points are very clearly stated, with some precise expressive connotations. In addition it is plainly based on a desire to bring the concert dimension of the music and the sense of growing climax that is typical of the live performance into the recording studio. (This is also why the tracks have a rather long duration, which is in any case necessary for this type of music).

These then are the main elements of this record and you may or may not like them, or you may criticize La Corte for declaring his sources of inspiration so frankly. (But is this really a such a bad thing?) You will however be bound to recognize the value of his aesthetic coherence and the indisputable clarity of his creative approach. These are qualities that can also be found in the versions of two famous pieces by Paul Simon and the Beatles, and thus from the world of pop music, which have been revisited and revamped by a genuine jazz philosophy, rather than by the usual pseudo pop attitude. In the case of “Yesterday” La Corte perfectly succeeds in the difficult task of turning this indisputable masterpiece, which is about as far from jazz as one can possibly imagine, into an authentic jazz ballad. Maurizio Franco

1 Smile In Winter 8.56
2 The Sound of Silence 12.48
3 Unknow Tone (Annotone) 8.40
4 Yesterday 10.36
5 One for McCoy 9.16
6 Live on Keaps 10.45
7 Blues At 25 CM 10.19

Alessandro La Corte piano & Fender Rhodes
Carla Marciano alto & sopranino sax
Jerry Popolo tenor sax
Marco de Tilla double bass
Gino del Prete drums

Raffaele Carotenuto trombone on "One For McCoy"

Brass Section on "Smile In Winter"
Ciccio Verrengia trumpet
Nicola Coppola trumpet
Carla Marciano alto sax
Peppe Plaitano ten sax
Raffaele Carotenuto trombone
Alfonso Deidda baritone sax
Carla Marciano sopranino sax (overdubbed)

Recording Data

Recordings: Elios Recording - Castellammare di Stabia - Naples
Sound engineer: Carlo Gentiletti
Mix and mastering: Luca Bulgarelli
Final mastering: AlfaMusic Studio – Rome
Sound engineer Alessandro Guardia