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Piero Umiliani - Da Roma A New York
10" Vinyl
£23.99
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Piero Umiliani

Da Roma A New York

Schema Rearward

Released: 23rd June 2014 | 10 track pop-jazz album

This record represents the first opportunity for an Italian jazz composer and

arranger to express himself with complete freedom. Up to now it seems to me

that Italian jazz has been focused almost entirely on the figure of the soloist,

with the obvious result that — when they adopt American themes and

arrangements — the Italian version pales in comparison with the original.

On the other hand, when the execution is left entirely to the imagination of the

musician, it's inevitable that for the duration of the record we are entirely at the

mercy of the variable quality of the soloist's inspiration.

So, what better setting for a jazz musician than a new arrangement of the

original, supporting him in the solos and alternating the ensemble writing with

individual improvisation? It helps him coordinate his ideas, develop them —

and catch his breath!

Jazz today is going through a particularly happy period, both commercially and

stylistically. It seems to be back to the golden age of swing!

With the end of the long period of renewal, controversy and research —

ranging from the first bop to the Cool of Tristano and the experiments of

Kenton — musicians today are living in a period of intense creative activity.

They are working in a language that, while it doesn't ignore the teachings of

modern symphonic music, puts more emphasis on the eternal fundamentals of

jazz — rhythm, swing and modality.

Even in these arrangements I tried to express myself in a way which was

contemporary but classic, without experimental pretensions, focusing on a

good sound and effective rhythm. The pieces, all written by me and arranged

especially for this recording, were performed on March 25th and 27th, 1957.

The theme of Da Roma a New York ('From Rome to New York') is played first

by the sax, then repeated by the bass and trombone in unison, then repeated

again with the trumpet playing a contrapuntal counter-melody. In the riff, the

theme is taken up by the horns, playing a fourth higher. In the second refrain

the rhythmic idea of the fifth bar of the theme is developed in a new key, and

supports the tenor's improvisation. The second refrain returns to the original

theme, picking up the key of the riff and developing freely, 'in divertimento'.

After a brief alto solo, the trumpet improvises, accompanied by the entire brass

section. A contrapuntal progression starts from the bass and reaches the

trumpet, leading eventually to the baritone solo which closes this fourth refrain.

Back to the initial phrase after a very short interlude, here there is an inversion

for that with trumpet and contralto playing the theme while tenor and baritone

contrast it.

In La fanciulla dai Capelli di Nylon ('The Girl with the Nylon Hair', a play on

Claude Debussy's 'The Girl with the Flaxen Hair'), the clarinet rephrases the

well known prelude written by Debussy, performing a melodic pattern of blues,

which after a solo progression is played in ensemble by the whole brass

section. It is important to notice how the trumpet's improvisation following the

24 bar long exposition is incredibly well blended with the other instruments

and constitutes a complex but homogeneous whole. Eventually the fragment of

the theme played by the baritone is joined by the trombone, tenor and then

contralto. And then the trumpet as well. Soraya is a slow ballad with two refrains, the first one revealed in ensemble, while the second features the contralto

(with variations) and the piano. At the end we return to the initial fragment of the theme.

Blues for Tony Sciacca is dedicated to the amazing Tony Scott, whose real name reveals his undeniably Italian origin.

The two clarinets mutually alternate in exposing the theme as the classic canon requires. The score is played identically

at the end, with a few instrumental variations: the trumpet and contralto play in unison the part of the first clarinet while

the tenors play the second one (not the trombonist in this part).

In Kon-Tiki the counterpoint of the sax and trombone creates a vaguely South American rhythm that accompanies the

trumpet, which presents the theme. The second refrain displays several unison sections and after riffing improvisation by

the contralto and the trumpet, the initial theme is played again. I think that the style of jazz we are playing nowadays has

a characteristic quality distinct from the first wave of Cool: the re-evaluation of vital elements of vintage jazz. Rather

than looking far and wide for new inspirations, like chamber music of the 18th century, twelve-tone technique, or Cuban

folklore, here today we recall the authentic tradition, going back to the roots of our music. And since in jazz nothing is

more jazz than the blues, here's a new set of blues in the style of Shorty Rogers. Vasi a Samo ('Vessels to Samos' — the

Italian equivalent of 'Coals to Newcastle'; the implication being of something taken to where it is least needed) belongs

to this set. The theme, played by the piano and then by unison saxes, goes through a series of variations and solos until it

is reprised by the horn section, first as a canon and then together in harmony. The playful title of the piece was

suggested to me by the fact that this LP was intended by RCA, not so much for the Italian public, but for the American

market, which seems to me to be Bringing coals to Newcastle! On Canzonetta ('Jingle') I experimented with some

smooth counterpoint effects based on the slow melodic line. The tenor resumes the riff solo, with the intervention of the

piano breaking the monotone of the brass. Sic et simpliciter ('Simply So') is the perfect model of a harmonic

progression: I deliberately avoided any melodic idea, even during the riff which is built with predominantly rhythmic

elements based on a progression of high chords. The theme, as introduced by the piano in the first refrain, is then played

by the horns in the last one. In Aria di danza ('Air Dance') it is the melodic idea stated at the outset by the trombone

which sets the whole piece in motion. The riff indeed is the same phrase, with variations at the end played by the

trumpet in the key of the subdominant. Le sette virtù ('The Seven Virtues') — that's the name I wanted to give to the

final composition of this set, built on the harmony of a well known American ballad (very commonly used, since the

time of bop). But instead, since the piece is dedicated to its seven soloists, I jokingly suggested a change of title. So here

we have I Sette Peccati ('The Seven Deadly Sins'): these names are well known in the highest reaches of Italian jazz and

need no introduction. Who among fans doesn't know Giulio Libano (trumpet player, later arranger and conductor of

Chet Baker's sessions in Milan), Glauco Masetti (alto sax and clarinet), Eraldo Volontè (tenor sax and clarinet), Mario

Midana (trombonist, who later worked with Armando Trovajoli's orchestra), Sandro Bagalini (baritone sax, bass

clarinet, clarinet, tenor sax), Alceo Guatelli (double bassist and later a distinguished composer) and Gilberto 'Gil'

Cuppini (drummer), for their many concerts, frequent recordings and radio broadcasts?

Some of them are themselves leaders of orchestras, for instance Masetti, Volontè, Cuppini — the latter has recorded a

LP which has also been released in the USA on RCA Victor — Around the World in Jazz : Italy by Gil Cuppini and his

Stars.

All my gratitude to them for their friendly and willing collaboration, which was essential for the success of these

recordings. A special thank goes to the maestro Alberto Angelini who supervised the recordings, made in Milan for

RCA Italiana.

Piero Umiliani