Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rosario Giuliani - Alto Saxophonist Extraordinaire

In his All About Jazz website review of Mr. Dodo, Rosario Giuliani’s 2002 Dreyfus Jazz CD [FDM 36636-2], C. Michael Bailey astutely comments that “The musicianship of Rosario Giuliani is exhilarating. His total package of performance, composition and improvisation is not so much a breath of fresh air as it is a gale force wind blowing across a landscape littered with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane disciples. He has a confident, masculine tone that is at once assertive and tender, betraying bit of Julian Adderley and Eric Dolphy.”
Indeed, if you like your alto playing searing, sensual and sonorous, welcome to the world of Rosario Giuliani. His is an alto tone that is big, biting and burning – all at the same time; it is a sound that totally envelopes the listener.

In addition to Adderley and Dolphy [and perhaps even some ‘early years’ Art Pepper], Giuliani also incorporates a style that is reminiscent of Chris Potter before he moved on to “the big horn,” especially the Potter of Presenting Chris Potter on Criss Cross [CD 1067].

Other alto saxophone contemporaries such as Jesse Davis, Kenny Garrett, Jon Gordon, Vincent Herring, and Jim Snidero, and are also reflected in Giuliani’s style, and yet, despite these acknowledgements, he is very much his own man.

Whether it’s running the changes on finger-poppin’ bop tunes, improvising on modal scales and odd time signatures or finding his way movingly and expressively through ballads, Giuliani enveloping sound is a force and a presence. He has a technical command of the instrument that lets him go wherever he wants to on the horn including employing the dash difficult Paul Desmond device of improvising duets with himself.

Giuliani’s recordings will also provide an opportunity to hear some wonderful rhythm section players frequenting today’s Italian Jazz scene such as pianists Dado Moroni, Pietro Lussu, and Franco D’Andrea; bassists Gianluca Renzi, Jospeh Lepore, Pietro Ciancaglini, Dario Deidda, and Rimi Vignolo; drummers, Lorenzo Tucci, Benjamin Henocq [Swiss/Italian], Massimo Manzi and Marcello Di Leonardo. All of these guys are virtuoso players who can really bring it.

Rosario’s music is a reflection of a young player finding his way through the modern Jazz tradition with straight-ahead, bop-oriented tunes such as Wes Montgomery’s Road Song, re-workings of Ornette Coleman’s The Blessing and Invisible [which frankly I enjoyed more than the originals with the exception of the playing Messer’s Blackwell, Hayden, Higgins and La Faro – to his credit, Ornette used some very fine rhythm sections on his early albums], and, as is to be expected from today’s young, reed players, Coltranesque extended adventures such as the original Suite et Poursuite, I, II, III.

Interestingly his tribute to Coltrane album is done without the ever pulsating and bombastic Elvin Jones like drumming, but rather as a Duets for Trane in which he an pianist Franco D’Andrea perform on nine Coltrane originals such as Equinox, Central Park West and Like Sonny. There is very little “sheets of sound” to be found anywhere on this recording, but rather, an introspective and original examination of Coltrane’s music by someone whose playing would have made him smile.

These two also combine on Live from Virginia Ranch, a quartet album on Philology [W114.2].

[It would seem that producer/owner Paolo Piangiarelli has a penchant for recording pianist D’Andrea in duos with alto players on his Philology label as he also issued Our Monk in 1994 [W.78.2] with Phil Woods on alto, after whom, Piangiarelli named his label!].

Rosario has a lovely way with ballads as can be heard in his sensitive and thoughtful interpretations of Tadd Dameron’s On a Misty Night, Bob Haggart’s What’s New and Michele Petrucciani’s lovely Home. Many other slow tunes are given a prominent place on his recordings which could be considered somewhat of a rarity as the tempo - "slow" - is often a stranger to youthful Jazz musicians.

He even put out an early recording Connotazione Blue [Philology W144.2] that is devoted entirely to standards such as Skylark, What is This Thing Called Love and Invitation that are interspersed with an original, four-part blues odyssey entitled Blues Connotation. It is his way of showing his conversancy with these musical forms and to pay homage to these strains within the Jazz tradition.

Giuliani is in demand by movie composers such as Morricone, Umilani, and Ortolani and even has a CD out entitled Tension that features his interpretation of Jazz themes from Italian movies.

This recording along with 9 other CD’s under his own name to date represent a staggering body of high quality playing which can only get better now that he is under the tutelage of Francis Dreyfus, producer of Dreyfus Jazz.

Rosario Giuliani is a player of distinction who makes Jazz, in all its modern manifestations, an exciting adventure.

I recommend him to you without reservation as someone who will reward you many times over should you chose to include him and his associates in your musical vocabulary.

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