(Translated from Italian)
Extensive and recurrent is the diatribe between jazz lovers who can’t stand listening to the beloved idiom used for translations from pop and song, and those who prefer the new guise of the known classics, appreciating just enough improvisations and impromptu inventions, as long as the premise or continuation of the theme is sung. A separation line that, in the Italian soil of the Italian pop, is most evident and finds representatives of the first faction also within Tdj. Personally, if it may interest you, I place myself in a neutral position, without abhorring or preferring the jazz reinterpretations of Modugno, Battisti or Celentano which often involve Italian musicians, but seeking, as in any other case, the attendance of ideas and musical projects that know how to convey emotions and content, in a more or less independent way from the source materials. However, I must say that it remains unclear to me why many songs in the great American catalog have become jazz standards while an Italian songwriting song should be denied this future.
Transferring us overseas a recent example, which may eventually fuel the fire of the aforementioned dispute, is the new album presented by the ensemble LP And The Vinyl, composed by the trio of the American pianist Danny Green with Justin Grinnell on bass and Julien Cantelm on drums, for the occasion together with singer Leonard Patton. All of the musicians are from San Diego, California, with extensive experiences and awards behind them. Patton is said to have started singing from elementary schools and has never stopped, especially after coming across jazz at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and having developed a deep and flexible style that allows him to go from singing to scatting, imitating the saxophone and trumpet and evoking comparisons with the famous Bobby McFerrin. Danny Green is a pianist with an elegant and exuberant touch who, drawing on jazz, classical and Brazilian music, has consolidated with his trio over the years. His various recordings, starting from 2009 with With You In Mind, a form of solid and mainstream staff, based on original standards and compositions, and he is open to different formats such as his 2018 disc with a string section, One Day It Will.
The quartet thought, for this first test, to bother nothing less than pop classics of the caliber of “Life on Mars” by David Bowie, “Wonderwall” by Oasis, the Beatlesian “The fool on the Hill”, and songs by Quincy Jones , Michael Jackson and the Tears for fears. And the effect is as unsettling as it is interesting, because throughout the pop, jazz and soul record they continue to intertwine and merge with a decidedly enjoyable result.
The initial “The Lonely Band”, for example, starts from a rhythmic electric piano riff that could remind you of Supertramp, widens with the entry of Patton’s warm vocality, protagonist of a sing along refrain, but the only one of piano that breaks the song in half, widening its harmonic structure, the backbone of the double bass, and the rhythm base drive, like its variations, are imbued with jazz.
Even more evidently, Green and his trio imagine a new guise for the songs by Bowie, the Beatles and Oasis, replacing electricity with a dense rhythmic dialogue in which the piano represents the central pivot, both in the harmonious developments of the songs that in the solo parts. “Everybody wants to rule the world” single of the planetary success of the Tears for fears in 1985, is purified from the heavy rhythm of the 80s to be reborn in an essential and lyrical guise sewn by the many vocal nuances of Patton and by the discreet but eloquent piano of Green.
On decidedly more predictable terrain, Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It” and Quincy Jones’s “One Hundred Ways,” which, despite Patton’s performance, and Grinnell’s only double bass on the second, remain in the soul pop enclosure to which they belonged from birth.
The disc is completed by another ballad with gospel hints of Green “Night Waltz” by Green and the two standard “My One and Only Love”, and “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” in which the group offers a showcase of styles and techniques that he masters: in both cases we start with the ballad atmosphere and then rise with the temperature and the rhythm, up to consolidating a light funky plot on which Patton puts on scat solos to replicate the sound of the winds.
The invitation is, for everyone, to approach without prejudice: the satisfactions could be lurking.
See review at Tracce di Jazz