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Love Is Passing Thru-Audio CD


Sit back, relax and let this music "splash" in your head. "Love Is Passing Thru" is a journey into the passionate jazz of Roberto Magris. With its captivating melodies, contrasting harmonies and an uncanny sense of empathy among the performers, love lights up the world like a match in Magris’ music. But don't think that Magris' kind of love is like a picture postcard. Love can be an extremely difficult and complex sentiment that changes the way in which life is understood and music is conceived.
"Love Is Passing Thru" is Magris’ first American release with a group made up entirely of his countrymen from Italy. This, his 20th release for the JMood label, dates back to 2005, after the group returned from a tour in the Far East. As the music demonstrates, Magris was inspired by a society rooted in the four pillars of kindness, understanding, joy and inclusion. The impact of his Far East travels can also be heard with the addition of some traditional percussion instruments from Bali. It all adds to a sense of surprise and continuity throughout quartet, trio, duo and solo piano performances that seem to combine to form a suite. “I would like to hear the music I love in the music I play,” notes Magris. There could be no better definition of his music than that!
Magris touched the four corners of the world with this quartet in the early 2000s, transforming his music into a river of unstoppable currents. Be careful, however, because once you dive in, it is difficult to get out. This recording is one that truly represents Magris’ experience, culture and approach to jazz as a European musician. He was born in Trieste, a city in the heart of Central Europe where the knowledge of the physical borders allowed him to overcome the intangible ones. It’s also a region where the arts are expressed with the particular critical spirit and sophistication evidenced in Magris’ cool approach to melody.
The extraordinary nature of this album lies in investigating love — the one lost, the one sought or the one yet to come — with all their contradictions, tensions and human weaknesses. As a man and artist, Billy Strayhorn is a true inspirational link for this recording with the revisiting of some obscure and little known compositions like "Love Came," "Love Has Passed Me By Again," "Orson" and two different, but complementary, solo piano versions of Strayhorn’s masterpiece, "Lush Life."
The first song on this record, “Hair, Bee, Knee, Calls,” catches you from the start. The title, if you read it aloud is the name of one of Roberto’s musical heroes — Herbie Nichols. Magris’ love for Nichols is burning, kaleidoscopic and capable of communicating a vast spectrum of emotions. In "Hair, Bee, Knee, Calls,” the use of gong and percussion releases shades of deep spirituality, while the piano announces an almost ethnic theme of ancestral love. You can hear Magris’ interpretations of Nichols’ compositions on his series of "One Night in with Hope and More Vol. 1 and 2," which he dedicated to pianists of the be-bop era, and the tribute album “Aliens in a Bebop Planet.” Those and other Magris recordings are available from JMood Records.
The quartet tracks on this recording are a perfect examples of a musical communion and sharing between musicians. This music, full of details and nuances, is really intriguing to listen to. For example, in "Two Sided Love," Magris speaks of a love that, as happens in life, has two faces: — the first is rough and aggressive and the second romantic. The contrast between the two is evident in the transition from the initial free jazz introduction to the languid melody played by Martin's tenor. The song seems to end and start again, like a beat of wings, from the marked high notes resurfacing with full sweetness. The theme renders the immediate beauty of a typical love song. The same is true of "In The Days Of Our Love” and “Love Came.” The first is characterized by a sensual melody, without any obvious sentimentality, all played with orchestral and full pianism. The second is the perfect conclusion of a medley that links together the two famous Italian songs "Estate" and "Mi sono innamorato di te." The soft dark tone of Carpentieri’s percussion and Gallo's bass lead to a final dialogue between piano and sax. The melancholy, almost velvety theme, is played by Martin with a dark tone reminiscent of Dexter Gordon while the elegance of Magris' harmonic choices creates a curtain of shading sounds. It's pure magic.
“Love Has Passed Me By Again” is another Strayhorn composition that was introduced to Magris by saxophonist Herb Geller. Again, love melts into the musical spell that opens with piano and drums placing the right emphasis on the balance between the harmonics of Magris' piano and the rhythm of Carpentieri’s brushes. Gallo introduces his dazzling bass phrasing, and at last Martin's sax intensifies the lyrical pathos of the song. The typical Strayhorn sound is even more sinuous on this track with an elastic timbre as the four musicians demonstrate their deep interplay and full command of how to intuitively support each other.
The hypnotic and abrasive rendition of "You Don't Know What Love Is" is transformed by Magris and Carpentieri. The piano attacks the melody, mincing and devouring it, and then brings it back to life again, running on the edge of a tension amplified by pounding and almost ghostly percussion. A close dialogue between the tonal effects of the piano and the percussion prepares the ground for a thriller movie atmosphere in which love is no longer love. Fats Waller’s "Jitterbug waltz" also begins with gong and percussion —- a mantra that acts as a glue and opens the doors of time to fabulous dimensions. While Carpentieri pushes on drums with thundering sounds and swing agility, Magris twirls on the keyboard with ease and sensitivity. Deep and dynamic, this song is a tasteful divertissement.
“Orson” is something extraordinary. This is sophisticated music, gentle and straightforward at the same time, with Magris as the great narrator of Strayhorn’s dedication to Orson Welles. The piano floats on a suspended world, surrounded by the Balinese percussion, highlighting a sense of sadness which materializes in a theme that the pianist models with aplomb like a sculpture made of notes. When love is hard to imagine, music intervenes. This is what happens in "Orson", where Magris makes his imagination a painting with every single note becoming a color with a new color surprisingly added at the end by the entry of Gallo, who ends the song with solo bass full of brio and brilliance,
The two versions of "Lush Life," a song that Strayhorn wrote at the age of eighteen, are a cameo of solo piano rhapsodic virtuosity. The first version seems slightly softer than the second with the theme expressed with great delicacy. Both versions, however, are exposed on the edge of a precipice where styles and eras of black music are sewn together like a zip between the two parts of a dress. Magris lowers that zip, and then closes it again, starting from Jelly Roll Morton and reaching Don Pullen. The piece blends verse and refrain in a single part, creating a floating atmosphere with its complex harmony rich in chromaticity and progressions. Magris’ performance is filled with impressionist, but frenzied, flickers and arabesques of dazzling freshness. He insists on an alternation of crescendo and diminuendo, soft and loud, slow and fast, making these two versions of "Lush Life" an unusual and fascinating listening experience. Not only beautiful from an aesthetic point of view, but also precious when it’s played softly but with a great rhythmic emphasis. Magris demonstrates his mastery of time and balance, through the refractions of sounds, the very fast glissandos and the gravity of the low notes of the piano.
After such a lot of musical traveling, the end comes with Gerry Mulligan’s "Ontet." The original version, with Mulligan on the piano and Chet Baker is slightly slower than the one performed by Magris, which is less dark but equally full of unknowns about love. Where Mulligan, Baker and Strayhorn seem reluctant and disillusioned about human relationships, Magris seems confident and immersed in open minded and positive moods. Love is passing thru his music and this passionate album.
Davide Ielmini is a regular contributor to Musica magazine and is the author/co-author of books on European and Italian jazz.