Dino and Franco Piana asked a number of their prestigious fellow musicians to collaborate with them on this record. Enrico Rava, Fabrizio Bosso, Enrico Pieranunzi, Luca Mannutza, Max Ionata, Giuseppe Bassi and Roberto Gatto (also artistic producer of the album) all agreed to participate on this album, released by AlfaMusic, a record label that for over twenty years has produced important recordings by some of the best Italian musicians.
This is AlfaMusic’s first disc dedicated to Dino and Franco Piana and here, as ever, Franco has demonstrated his outstanding gifts as composer and arranger. He still shows all the talent and flair he had in the early days when he collaborated with his father Dino (trombone), Oscar Valdambrini (trumpet) and Gianni Basso (sax), becoming part of the longest lasting Italian jazz line-up.
On this latest record his scores for four brass instruments and rhythm section are reminiscent of those he has written for Big Band, even though Bosso, Ionata, Dino and Franco often play with a style that is closer to counterpoint.
The record starts with “Open Dialogues”, a four movement suite of great intensity with a wonderful intro by Pieranunzi. Like Gil Evans when he wrote for Miles Davis, Franco introduces free movements to the score, in which the soloists can maintain the precious quality of improvisation, with Bosso on the trumpet and Franco on the flugelhorn. Only on “Dark Eyes” (based on an original theme by Franco Piana, not on the famous traditional song) do both Bosso and Franco Piana play the flugelhorn, with Fabrizio playing the first solo, followed by Franco.
All of the soloists succeed in fascinating and enchanting the listener, drawing him into a crescendo of musical tension. The sequence of three solos in “Asimmetrico” creates a particularly dynamic energy. The impetuous opening tones of Bosso remind one of the bright and bold trumpets of Harlem, and this initial idea is developed through Franco’s touchingly inspired lyricism in which emotion is controlled by strict discipline, to culminate in the astounding technical capacities of Luca Mannutza on the piano.
At this point I feel bound to repeat what I have already written about him in the volume “Il Jazz in Italia dallo Swing agli anni Sessanta” (Jazz in Italy from Swing to the Sixties): “he can be immediately recognized for his style, impeccable intonation, vibrato, attack and vigorous sonority”. Here his personal style is very clear in the improvised episodes of “Open”, but also in “Asimmetrico”, where he prepares the way for Max Ionata and the others”, in “Step by Step”, which features a close musical dialogue with Enrico Rava (whose class and originality is as impeccable as ever), and last but not least in the up-tempo track “Eighty and One”, with an extraordinary Giuseppe Bassi and an exceptionally well constructed closing drum solo by Roberto Gatto, whose career has been packed of important contributions to many genres of music.
Pieranunzi’s extraordinarily personal phrasing never ceases to amaze, and it can be enjoyed to the full in the lyrical peace “Sunlight”. Here he embellishes a theme in which Franco Piana liberates his exquisite sensibilities as a composer, and a similar mood is created in a following track “Your Smile”.
Born in 1972 Max Ionata is the youngest of these outstanding musicians brought together by Dino and Franco Piana (closely followed by Fabrizio Bosso, born in 1973). This has, however, not prevented him in any way from having a long and important career and a significant discography. He has already recorded with many of the other musicians on this record, such us Luca Mannutza, with whom he studied harmony, and Fabrizio Bosso, to whom he is linked by a close stylistic bond. Ionata, like Sonny Rollins, has the ability to create dynamic contrasts between notes from the lowest and highest registers, and he has the same well defined and cutting timbre as John Coltrane, but he maintains his own distinctive personality which singles him out, even in the exceptionally creative panorama of Italian Jazz today.
In addition, what really strikes the listener in this album is the extraordinary quality of the sound, which has been recorded impeccably so that each instrument stands out in its own pristine perfection.