Thursday, August 5, 2010

Antonio Ciacca: Lagos Blues

Motema Music
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 8.5.10
Buy CD: Lagos Blues

It's always great to hear an album of traditional jazz.

Antonio Ciacca is a German-born, Italian-raised pianist now active in New York City, where he's the director of programming for Jazz at Lincoln Center. He began as a classicist but switched to jazz after hearing Wynton Marsalis perform at a 1990 concert in Bologna, Italy; Ciacca left for the states three years later.

In addition to his Lincoln Center job, Ciacca fronts a quartet consisting of saxophonist Stacy Dillard, bassist Kengo Nakamura and drummer Ulysses Owens. For this recording he also added saxophonist Steve Grossman, who has been a major influence in Ciacca's life.

This is the first small group in decades to feature two tenor saxes; it was an exciting combination from the 1950s through the '70s, and it still is.

Ciacca wrote "Nico's Song" — based on the harmony of "All The Things You Are" — and the title track, "Lagos Blues," after a memorable stay in that city. Grossman wrote "Take The D Train," a Coltrane kind of tune played totally in a D minor key, and "Nicoletta," a beautiful ballad.

The remaining tracks are covers of well-known jazz standards from Paul Chambers and Duke Ellington, along with a stirring interpretation of the classic "Body And Soul."

This is an enjoyable traditional jazz album; no bop, no hip-hop, no funk ... just the kind of music that turned everyone on during the latter part of the 20th century.

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