Thursday, February 23, 2012

Max Ionata is Making Jazz

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Good stuff.  It's nice to hear someone who appears to be under 60 who doesn't play one cliché after another.”
David Scherr, Composer and Saxophonist

Max Ionata is not a familiar name in Jazz circles.  He should be.

Max’s Jazz tenor saxophone playing is accomplished and refreshingly unique.

To be fair, he’s very well-known in his native Italy and thanks to Matteo Pagano, the owner and proprietor of Via Veneto Jazz, his two recent CDs for that label offer more of Max’s marvelous music which should garner him even more appreciation, both at home and abroad.

You can locate more information about Via Veneto Jazz by going here.  And while currency exchange rates and foreign postal services may be expensive and time-consuming, the good news is that the Via Veneto Jazz CDs Dieci and Kind of Trio along with other of Max’s recordings are available as Mp3 downloads.

For many years, the two signature instruments associated with Jazz were the trumpet  - Pops, Bix, Diz and Miles – and the tenor saxophone – Hawk, Pres, Sonny and Coltrane.

Trumpet and tenor saxophone are the two front-line instruments in most Jazz combos and their sounds blend particularly well when played in unison.

The human ear seems to have an affinity for the tenor saxophone which may, in part, be due to the fact that its sounds are very close to that of the human voice. It has been said that the tenor sax has an almost vocal quality.

Given the imposing stature of the Jazz greats who have played the instrument over the almost hundred years of the music’s existence, a great deal is expected of those who pick up “the big horn” and follow in this tradition.

Max Ionata doesn’t disappoint.

Whether he is featured in quintets that he co-leads with trumpeters Fabrizio Bosso and Flavio Boltro, or evoking the dueling tenor tradition of the great Dexter Gordon & Wardell Gray, or Al Cohn & Zoot Sims or Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt in combination with Danielle Scannapieco, another of Italy’s rising young tenor sax stars on their Tenor Legacy Albore CD, or as a member of drummer Roberto Gatto’s quintet on the Remembering Shelly CDs recently issued on the Albore label, Max Ionata always plays with presence, power and passion.

His sound is robust and yet mellow, his phrasing is long and continuous, and he generates a steady sense of swing.

Max doesn’t overreach the range of the horn to litter his solos with squeaks and squawks nor does he take lengthy solos whose most appealing quality to the exhausted listener is that they have finally come to an end.

When Max is making Jazz, his solos are so artfully constructed that you don’t want them to end, at least, not too soon.

He incorporates just enough harmonic extensions to make his solo melodies interesting, but these never become ends in themselves.

Max doesn’t come to impress, he comes to play.  What you hear in his music is the fun of making Jazz; the music as an expression of a good time being had by all concerned.

Nothing laborious or contorted: nothing elaborately diminished, augmented or raised.  Just a beautifully played and very swinging tenor saxophone.

When a musician like Max comes along, other musicians can’t wait to have the chance to work with him. He brings out the best in them. In his presence, Jazz is once again accessible and yet still an adventure.

The following video features Max performing Astrobard from his new Via Veneto CD Dieci with Fabrizio Bosso on trumpet, Luca Mannutza on piano, Nicola Muresu on bass and Nicola Angelucci on drums.