Although very different in sound and inspiration, these two new releases from the Amirani label have something in common: both are homages to creative figures.
Mario Mariotti’s Blues for Boris was inspired by Boris Vian, a writer associated with the Sartre circle in postwar Paris. Vian also was a trumpet player who was active in Paris’ hot jazz scene. Mariotti combines both sides of Vian’s creative life by basing the album’s music on oblique, often deliberately indecipherable reworkings of the melody to Mood Indigo as well as on pages of Vian’s 1946 novel L’Écume des jours (translated into English as Froth on the Daydream)–one of whose characters is a certain Jean-Sol Partre. Although Mariotti takes Duke Ellington as his starting point, he pushes the music beyond its roots in swing and into the territory of contemporary composition, playing techniques and orchestration, giving the sound a unique mix of melody and abstraction, of monophony and polyphony, of freedom and constraint. Also unique is the configuration of the ensemble put together for the recording which includes, besides Mariotti’s cornet, soprano saxophone, clarinet/bass clarinet, bass flute, tenor saxophone, and cello.
In contrast to the nearly lush orchestration of Blues for Boris, the sound of Township Nocturne is crafted from the rather more sparse trio of soprano saxophone, double bass and drums. The guiding spirit behind the recording is the late and much-missed pianist Gianni Lenoci, whose love of 1960s and ‘70s television detective series and noir fiction inspired the music. And there’s a certain moodiness to these pieces, whose conciseness and sometimes outright funkiness recalls the themes to those old programs, as refracted through a contemporary sensibility. It’s all well-played by the whimsically named Lenox Brothers—soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, who also appears on Blues for Boris; double bassist Pierpaolo Martino; and drummer Francesco Cusa. The recording gives all three instruments an egalitarian salience that puts the listener right in the middle of the session—as if seated in the living room, in front of an imaginary television set playing images of a 1977 Plymouth Fury chasing a fugitive through the polyester urban night.
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