Jazz, once a singularly American invention and one of the United States’ greatest exports, has become a truly international phenomenon, with important players from all over the world making valuable contributions to the music’s evolution. Europe, previously home to many of the most devoted connoisseurs of the art form, is now also the producer of some of the most innovative voices in jazz. With the inauguration of its European Modernists series Dreyfus Jazz is proud to bring U.S. audiences some of the best creative music being made on the continent today. The first releases in the collection showcase musicians from Belgium, France and Italy, spotlighting two long respected veterans and a pair of important younger voices. Taken together, Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine, French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc and Italians, drummer Aldo Romano and saxophonist Rosario Giuliani, these artists represent the continuing trend of noteworthy original music emanating from European environs.
Born in Belluno, Italy on Jan 16, 1941, Aldo Romano is the most senior of the four leaders, well known to audiences worldwide since his earliest recordings as a member of Don Cherry’s internationalist quintet featuring Argentinean saxophonist Gato Barbieri, German vibraphonist Karl Berger and French bassist Jean Francois Jenny Clark. A resident of France since a young age, he’s played swinging drums with visiting American giants like Jackie McLean, Bud Powell, Lucky Thompson, J.J. Johnson, Johnny Griffin and Woody Shaw and avant garde explorations with Steve Lacy, Charlie Mariano, Frank Wright, Bobby Few and Bill Dixon through the years, giving his far reaching music a distinctively freewheeling flavor. His associations with fellow Europeans Michel Petrucciani, Rolf and Joachim Kühn, Enrico Rava and Michel Portal make him a particularly representative artist for this series.
Origine, Romano’s fourth effort for Dreyfus, finds the versatile artist returning to a romantic setting similar to that of his debut effort for the label, Chante, leading an expanded ensemble that displays his considerable capabilities as a composer. Augmenting his jazz sextet featuring saxophonist/flutist Lionel Belmondo (who arranged all of the disc’s thirteen compositions) and trumpeter/flugelhornist Stéphane Belmondo (the date’s primary soloist), altoist Géraldine Laurent, pianist Eric Legnini and bassist Thomas Bramerie with a classical wind ensemble of clarinet, flute, English horn, bassoon, French horn and tuba, plus percussionist Xavier Desandre-Navarre. The music is lush and beautiful, a decidedly successful melding of American and European sensibilities reflecting Romano’s wide ranging talents, which also include (like one of his influences, Bill Higgins) playing guitar and singing, the latter of which is heard to great effect on the final track, his “Jazz Messengers” with French lyrics by Yves Simon.
Guitarist Philip Catherine, born in London in 1942 to a Belgian father and British mother, was raised in Brussels’s where he began playing professionally while still a teenager. Dubbed the "young Django" while still a youth, by the great Charles Mingus (on whose Three or Four Shades of Blues the guitarist recorded), Catherine came into his own voice playing in variety of settings, from bebop to fusion, including work with American expatriates Dexter Gordon and Chet Baker and European violin maestros Jean Luc Ponty and Stephane Grappelli. Since gaining recognition with American audiences for his two guitar work Larry Coryell, he has gone on to become one of the most highly respected artists on his instrument in both the U.S. and Europe.
Catherine, who has recorded over twenty albums under his own name since his 1974 Warner Brothers debut Stream (produced by the legendary French guitarist-vocalist Sacha Distel, who worked with Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and John Lewis) and dozens more as a valued sideman, makes his sixth appearance as a leader on Dreyfus with Concert In Capbreton. The live recording, featuring the guitarist’s working band with his longtime collaborator, Dutch bassist Hein Van De Geyn, Italian piano maestro Enrico Pieranunzi and former Bill Evans drummer Joe La Barbera, is a swinging affair documenting the group’s 2009 appearance in the charming seaside resort town in southwestern France. The group stretches out on four standards from the Great American Songbook – “My Funny Valentine”, “My Foolish Heart”, “You’ve Changed” and “Speak Low”, along with two modern jazz classics, Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice” and Richie Beirach’s “Broken Wings” and a beautiful Van de Geyn solo bass piece “Change.”
Since moving to New York in 1995, virtuoso pianist/composer Jean-Michel Pilc has steadily earned a reputation one the city’s finest musical imports, working and recording regularly in many of the most important venues in the jazz capital of the world, including Sweet Basil, Small’s, Iridium and the Jazz Gallery, both as a leader and with the likes of Roy Haynes, Michael Brecker, Kenny Garrett and Richard Bona. Born in Paris in 1960, where he taught himself piano, Pilc truly came into his own after moving to the United States and forming his longstanding trio featuring fellow Frenchman, bassist François Moutin (with whom he recorded his debut album, Funambule, in Paris in 1989) and the flexible Philadelphian drummer, Ari Hoenig. An innovator with a deeply personal style of his own, Pilc has been called “musical genius’” by the Washington Post, while the New York Time’s Ben Ratliff astutely described him as “a splashy stunner who also has a Rubik's-cube mind for chord substitutions."
True Story, Pilc’s sixth album as a leader for Dreyfus since he began recording for the label back in 2001 with his Welcome Home, introduces the pianist’s remarkable new trio featuring veteran drummer Billy Hart and the great Russian born Mingus Dynasty bassist Boris Kozlov. The program, predominantly composed by the leader himself, including the five part title track suite, continues on the idiosyncratic path blazed on his previous dates, with music that is both dazzling and unpredictable. In addition to his other compositions, which include the classically tinged tribute “Mornings With Franz”, he also performs an original arrangement of Schubert’s “Relic” and typically unconventional interpretations of Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” and Tom Jones’ pop hit “Try To Remember”, with the former reimagined as a tango and latter serving as an Evanescent impressionistic journey.
Perhaps the least known artist presented in the European Modernist series, Rosario Giuliani is nonetheless an important new voice on the international music scene. Born in Terracina, Italy in the saxophonist achieved deserved recognition when voted the best new talent in the 2000 critics poll Top Jazz conducted by Musica Jazz magazine. Since then he has gone on to garner attention for his work with artists like Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Cedar Walton, Marc Johnson, Charlie Haden, Phil Woods, Mark Turner and Jeff "Tain" Watts, as well as many of Europe’s best players. Possessing a virtuosic technique reflecting a range of influences from Charlie Parker and Lee Konitz to John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Giuliani has proven himself to be a significant addition to the lineage of jazz saxophonists, capable of contributing valuably in a variety of situations.
Lennie’s Pennies, Giuliani’s tenth album as a leader and his fifth for Dreyfus, may well be the saxophonist’s best effort to date. Leading a quartet featuring Paris born Pierre de Bethmann on piano and Fender Rhodes, with expatriate Philadelphian Darryl Hall on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums, Giuliani proves himself to be a first rate on alto saxophone (which he plays exclusively on the date, eschewing the soprano sax that he has doubled on excellently on previous cd’s). Opening with a blistering tempoed reading of Lennie Tristano’s title track, the leader leaves no doubt whatsoever concerning his powerful voice and technique. Elsewhere he expresses both a dreamy sensitivity, as well as a willingness to stretch boundaries when appropriate. The program, which includes four originals penned by the leader and two from de Bethmann, as well as a couple of standards, Heyman and Young’s “Love Letters” and Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean” and a pair of modern jazz classics, Joe Zawinul’s “74 Miles Away” and Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks” is one that should satisfy forward looking fans of straight ahead jazz.
Ironically, as modern technology and the internet makes the planet seem smaller and smaller, the jazz world continues to expand exponentially with creative artists from all over contributing their individual voices and homegrown influences to the music’s ever growing canon. The four artists featured on the Dreyfus European Modernist series, Aldo Romano, Philip Catherine, Jean-Michel Pilc and Rosario Giuliani, are each important voices in this once all-American music, reflecting the new wide world of contemporary jazz.