REVIEW: ‘Totem’ – Ferdinando Romano feat. Ralph Alessi

AS MUSIC DEVOTEES, we must all have enjoyed the experience of a new recording which ‘follows us around’. Whatever comes and goes, that one album begs to be heard again and again over a period of time, and for good reason. Italian double bassist and composer Ferdinando Romano’s Totem has landed very firmly in this category.

In his first contemporary jazz release as leader, Romano’s core quintet of alto/soprano saxophones, vibraphone/marimba, piano, double bass and drums is frequently augmented to sextet or septet by flugelhornist Tommaso Iacoviello and acclaimed trumpeter Ralph Alessi. Together, they produce some of the most luscious and melodious ensemble performances I’ve heard for some time, the bassist’s eight compositions captured with typically crystalline clarity at Artesuono studio. His overarching theme and album title is described thus:

“A totem is a symbol that represents a natural or spiritual entity which has a particular meaning for a single person or even for a large group of people. In an artistic sense, each of us has [our] own totems, they are our references, our lighthouses and also the people we met and whom we shared musical and artistic experiences with. However, the single totems can give life to a much bigger one, something that is much more than the sum of the parts and that represents the creative synthesis of our musical personality, giving birth to something new.”

There are so many exquisite moments and interactions in this near-hour’s listening that create atmospheres which, arguably, only music can offer; and this ensemble demonstrates faultless intuition in integrating and continuing textures. The Gecko’s apparently straightforward bass-and-marimba groove is clearly approached with relish by each player, with interwoven horns and shimmering vibraphone. Romano’s sleeve notes explain the background to each piece, and stealthy flugel and soprano in Wolf Totem pictorialises its described inspiration with mystery, then triumphant vitality.

The ballads are especially pellucid, with Romano’s expressive bass improvisations in Curly carried on bell-like rivulets of piano and vibes; and Memories Reprise is an emotive stand-out. I understand that sometimes the soprano sax is maligned for being shrill or narrow, but in Simone Allessandrini’s hands, it glides so smoothly (listen to this track at 4:42 where his sustained melody is seamlessly carried forward by Tommaso Iacovelli’s flugel). Longer outings come in the form of eleven-minute Mirrors – a freer, immersive exploration; and Sea Crossing (parts 1 & 2) is a suitably wild, turbulent voyage which benefits from the undoubted mastery of Ralph Alessi’s bright, limitless improvisations, though the whole band basks in the joint ebullience.

The concept of ‘life’s dance’ is never far away in this recording, with Romano referencing Mattisse’s familiar 1910 oil painting ‘The Dance’. There’s certainly an eloquence to these original sounds which, through vibrant rhythm or iridescent calm, speak to our humanity. In that sense, right now, the value of beauty in Totem feels inestimable.

Released on 24 April and available as CD, vinyl or download at Bandcamp.

 

Ralph Alessi trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8)

Tommaso Iacoviello flugelhorn (tracks 1, 3, 7)

Simone Alessandrini alto sax, soprano sax

Nazareno Caputo vibraphone, marimba

Manuel Magrini piano
Ferdinando Romano double bass

Giovanni Paolo Liguori drums

ferdinandoromano.com

Losen Records – LOS 242-2 (2020)

RECENT LISTENING: April 2020 (3)

Another Kind of Soul – Tony Kofi
Tony Kofi, Andy Davies, Alex Webb, Andrew Cleyndert, Alfonso Vitale
Release date: 24 April 2020 (The Last Music Company)
lastmusic.co.uk / propermusic.com / amazon.co.uk

Configuration – John Law’s Congregation
John Law, James Mainwaring, Ashley John Long, Billy Weir, Jasper Law
Release date: 1 May 2020 (Ubuntu Music)
www.amazon.co.uk / music.apple.com

Totem – Ferdinando Romano
Ralph Alessi, Tommaso Iacoviello, Simone Alessandrini, Nazareno Caputo, Manuel Magrini, Ferdinando Romano, Giovanni Paolo Liguori
Release date: 24 April 2020 (Losen Records)
ferdinandoromano.bandcamp.com

A Million Conversations – Rachel Sutton
Rachel Sutton, Roland Perrin, Michael Curtis Ruiz, Paul Robinson, Stuart Brooks
Release date: 13 January 2020 (33Jazz Records)
rachelsuttonmusic.com / 33jazz.com / music.apple.com

Music of our Times – Gary Husband & Markus Reuter
Gary Husband, Markus Reuter
Release date: 26 March 2020 (MoonJune Records)
markus-reuter-moonjune.bandcamp.com

Live at Ucheldre – Huw Warren
Huw Warren – solo piano
Release date: 10 April 2020
huwwarren.bandcamp.com

RECENT LISTENING: March 2020 (2)

While Looking Up – Jimmy Greene
Jimmy Greene, Reuben Rogers, Kendrick Scott, Aaron Goldberg, Stefon Harris, Lage Lund
Release date: 3 April 2020 (Mack Avenue Records)
mackavenue.com / propermusic.com

UP – Pericopes+1
Emiliano Vernici, Alessandro Sgobbio, Nick Wight
Release date: 6 March 2020 (Losen Records)
pericopes.it / losenrecords.no

Planet B – Jasper Høiby
Jasper Høiby, Josh Arcoleo, Marc Michel
Release date: 6 March 2020 (Edition Records)
jasperhoiby.bandcamp.com

Without Deception – Kenny Barron / Dave Holland Trio feat. Johnathan Blake
Kenny Barron, Dave Holland, Johnathan Blake
Release date: 6 March 2020 (Dare2 Records)
dave holland.com / propermusic.com

Live in Newcastle – Article XI
Sam Andreae, Oliver Dover, Simon Prince, Cath Roberts, Graham South, Nick Walters, Kieran McLeod, Tullis Rennie, Seth Bennett, Johnny Hunter, Anton Hunter
Release date: 16 March 2020 (Discus Music)
discusmusic.bandcamp.com

Alive in the Empire (vinyl) – Agile Experiments
John Edwards, Dan Nicholls, George Crowley, Dave De Rose
Release date: 27 March 2020 (Dave De Rose Records)
davederosemusic.bandcamp.com

TOP 12 OF 2019

HOW DOES ONE BEGIN to compile a ‘best of year’ list from the wealth and diversity of new releases out there?! Well, appreciation of music is, of course, entirely subjective. But during 2019, amongst all of the jazz and jazz-related albums I have written for or about, or have been privileged to simply receive an invitation to hear, these twelve (in no particular order) have been revisited the most frequently. All are heartily recommended, with info/links below. 

Here’s to a great new year – and decade – of musical discovery!

🎹 AP

Fred Hersch & The WDR Big Band – Begin Again
Fred Hersch, The WDR Big Band, arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza
Release date: 7 June 2019 (Palmetto Records)
Available from: propermusic.com/fredhersch/beginagain

Kate Williams’ Four Plus Three meets Georgia Mancio – Finding Home
Kate Williams, Georgia Mancio, John Garner, Marie Schreer, Francis Gallagher, Sergio Serra, Oli Hayhurst, David Ingamells, John Williams
Release date: 1 June 2019 (KW Jazz)
Review: ap-reviews.com/findinghome
Available from: katewilliams.bandcamp.com/findinghome or georgiamancio.com/findinghome

Ingi Bjarni – Tenging
Ingi Bjarni Skúlason, Jakob Eri Myhre, Merje Kägu, Daniel Andersson, Tore Ljøkelsøy
Release date: 30 August 2019 (Losen Records)
Available from: losenrecords.no/tenging

Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Brian Blade – Trilogy 2
Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Brian Blade
Release date: 18 October 2019 (Concord Jazz)
Available from: propermusic.com/chickcorea/trilogy2

Rymden Reflections & Odysseys
Bugge Wesseltoft, Dan Berglund, Magnus Öström
Release date: 8 February 2019 (Jazzland Records)
Review: ap-reviews.com/rymden
Available from: rymden3.bandcamp.com/reflections&odysseys

Mark Lockheart and Roger Sayer – Salvator Mundi
Mark Lockheart, Roger Sayer
Release date: 5 July 2019 (Edition Records)
Review: ap-reviews.com/salvatormundi
Available from: marklockheart.bandcamp.com/salvatormundi

Michael Janisch – Worlds Collide
Michael Janisch, Jason Palmer, John O’Gallagher, Rez Abbasi, Clarence Penn
with John Escreet, George Crowley, Andrew Bain

Release date: 6 September 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
Available from: michaeljanisch.bandcamp.com/worldscollide

Saxophone Summit – Street Talk
Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Greg Osby, Billy Hart, Phil Markowitz, Cecil McBee
Release date: 4 October 2019 (Enja Records)
Review: ap-reviews.com/streettalk
Available from: propermusic.com/streettalk

Trish Clowes – Ninety Degrees Gravity
Trish Clowes, Chris Montague, Ross Stanley, James Maddren
Release date: 26 April 2019 (Basho Records)
Available from: bashorecords.com/ninetydegreesgravity

Scott Kinsey – We Speak Luniwaz (The music of Joe Zawinul)
Scott Kinsey, Katise Buckingham, Hadrien Feraud, Gergo Borlai with Bobby Thomas Jr, Arto Tunçboyaciyan, Steve Tavaglione, Jimmy Haslip, Michael Baker, Danny Carey, Cyril Atef, Brad Dutz, Naina Kundu
Release date: 25 October 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
Available from: scott-kinsey.bandcamp.com/wespeakluniwaz

Huw Warren Trio – Everything In Between
Huw Warren, Dudley Phillips, Zoot Warren
Release date: 15 March 2019 (CAM JAZZ)
Review: ap-reviews.com/everythinginbetween
Available from: camjazz.com/everythinginbetween

e.s.t. – e.s.t. live in Gothenburg
Esbjörn Svensson, Dan Berglund, Magnus Öström
Release date: 25 October 2019 (ACT Music)
Review: ap-reviews.com/estliveingothenburg
Available from: actmusic.com/estliveingothenburg

‘The Space Between’ – Medbøe/Eriksen/Halle

TheSpaceBetween

WITH COVER ART suggesting a connection across a vast, oceanic expanse, trio release The Space Between brings together the artistic, atmospheric sublimeness of Norwegian-born Haftor Medbøe (guitars), Espen Eriksen (piano, harmonium) and Gunnar Halle (trumpet, voice) in a partnership forged from an extended line-up at the 2013 Edinburgh Jazz Festival.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Haftor Medbøe guitars
Espen Eriksen piano, harmonium
Gunnar Halle trumpet, voice

haftormedboe.com
espeneriksentrio.com
gunnarhalle.com

Losen Records – LOS 151-2 (2015)