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Characteristic Pitches

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3 out of 5


Enterprising acoustic jazz from a group led by drummer and composer Paolo Lattanzi and featuring a significant guest appearance from trombonist Robin Eubanks

Characteristic Pitches is the name of the new group formed by drummer and composer Paolo Lattanzi as an outlet for his writing. Italian born Lattanzi is now based in Boston U.S.A. where this album was recorded but the connection with home is retained courtesy of the album appearing on the enterprising Italian record label Silta run by bassist Giorgio Dini.

Lattanzi’s 2006 solo album “Night Dancers” (which was also released on Silta) is reviewed elsewhere on this site. For “Multitude” Lattanzi has acquired a totally new band, the basic quintet consisting of Daniel Rosenthal on trumpet, Rick Stone on alto saxophone, Lefteris Kordis on piano,  Greg Loughman on double bass plus Lattanzi himself at the drums. On seven of the album’s eleven tracks the group is augmented by one of America’s leading trombonists, the great Robin Eubanks.Lattanzi is a graduate of Boston’s famous Berklee Music College and his core group consists of some of the finest players on the Boston scene, most of them I suspect also former Berklee students.

The presence of Eubanks represents quite a coup for Lattanzi. The trombonist is one of the acknowledged leaders on his instrument and his credits include a lengthy spell as a member of master bassist Dave Holland’s band.

The album was recorded “live in the studio” and the focus is very much on Lattanzi’s composing and arranging skills and the overall ensemble sound. Nevertheless there is plenty of room for individual expression and there are plenty of fine solos to be heard throughout the album. The interplay between the three horns impresses on the opening “Illusions” as does the sympathetic support of the rhythm section. Appropriately it’s special guest Eubanks who takes the first solo, stretching out and exploring the full range of his instrument. Kordis follows with a sparkling solo before the horns are heard dovetailing above Lattanzi’s fractured drum grooves on the tricky closing section.

Eubanks sits out on “The Transversality Of Thoughts” and the following “Action And Reaction” allowing the regular quintet members a chance to shine. Rosenthal and Stone link up well on “Transversality..” and the trumpeter solos pensively but effectively. Lefteris is again in dazzling tune as the piece increases in tempo mid tune.

“Action And Reaction” includes a warm and engaging solo from bassist Loughman as well as allowing Stone some space to cut loose on flowing alto. Again the saxophonist combines well with his trumpet counterpart on some intricate horn lines as Lattanzi’s crisp drumming propels it all forward.

Eubanks is back in the fold for the strutting “Out There (On The Streets)”. Paced by Loughman’s relentless bass walk the piece features some more colourful horn interplay with Rosenthal’s bright trumpeting and Eubanks’ sometimes rounded, sometimes slippery trombone stylings among the solo highlights. 

“The White Page” is based around Kordis’ piano, building from skeletal, almost minimalistic beginnings in trio mode through a technically dazzling extended piano solo as the pace of the track rapidly accelerates. The horns of Rosenthal and Stone (Eubanks sits out altogether) only join in for the conclusion of the piece. For me the Greek born Kordis is the real discovery on this album, his playing is brilliant throughout whatever the tempo and he exhibits genuine ability as both soloist and accompanist. He’s certainly a player I’d like to hear more of.

“Neglected Potential” is horn driven, swinging and unpretentious. Breezy solos come from Stone on alto and Eubanks on trombone. The track represents something of a breather before the episodic “The Need For Essence” which at eleven and a half minutes plus represents the album’s lengthiest track. Building from Kordis’s solo piano through layered horns the piece opens up to frame a series of excellent solos with Eubanks leading things off. Stone’s thoughtful, probing alto solo is a particular delight with only Loughman’s bass for company at first. Finally Kordis is typically lively and inventive.

“Slowly” lives up to it’s name with Lattanzi’s drums starting the piece off and dictating the piece throughout. The dialogue between the horns is impressive and Eubanks delivers a suitably lugubrious solo on trombone.

“Gliding Away” features a relaxed performance from the quintet with Loughman’s bass figuring prominently. The bassist plays in an assured manner throughout the album, a sympathetic accompanist and a dexterous soloist. Rosenthal’s pure toned trumpet is also heard here plus Stone’s cool alto. Kordis sprinkles a touch of magic throughout and the leader’s drumming is as discrete and apposite as ever. 

Loughman’s bass opens “So Many Puppets Around”. It’s an interesting choice of title and the mood is playful rather than sinister with the horn players having a little fun. Eubanks joyous solo demonstrates his agility on the trombone and Stone also features prominently as Lattanzi’s solid back-beat drives the band forward.

“Common Nonsense” begins quietly but exuberant solos from Stone and Eubanks help to bring the temperature to boiling point and in the end the album goes storming out.

At seventy minutes plus “Multitude” is probably over long and despite the colour and imagination of the arrangements some of the themes are not sufficiently distinctive. Having said that there’s some excellent playing from all involved with Kordis particularly impressive. “Multitude” is a good but not great acoustic jazz album and Characteristic Pitches should be well worth catching live if you live in the Boston area. They could do with a snappier band name though, initially I thought “Multitude” was the name of the group!


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