Record of the day: Pietro Tonolo, "Portrait of Duke"

Record of the day: Pietro Tonolo, “Portrait of Duke”

Pietro Tonolo
Portrait of Duke (Cd Label Bleu LBLC 6628)

Extraordinary saxophonist, composer and arranger, the Venetian Pietro Tonolo is among the few Italian musicians to enjoy the esteem of many giants of international jazz having collaborated with historical names such as Gil Evans, Chet Baker, Paul Motian, Steve Lacy, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler , Lee Konitz, Kenny Clarke but also with important Italian musicians such as Enrico Rava, Franco D’Andrea and Massimo Urbani.

Unanimously considered among the best soprano sax soloists in the world, Tonolo is capable of igniting the audience even with the tenor, moving with confidence as a leader in different musical situations. For Tonolo, innovation and creativity cannot be separated from a profound study of the jazz tradition and the ability to master the languages ​​of the past; the best demonstration of this is contained in the CD “Portrait of Duke”, entirely dedicated to Ellington’s pages (with the exception of “Fleur Carnivore” by Carla Bley) and recorded live at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza in 1999.

His traveling companions are world-class names, Paul Motian (drums), Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Gil Goldstein (piano, one of Bill Evans’ few official students). The selection through the Duke’s immense catalog of compositions leaves aside many well-known songs to focus on gems
such as “All Too Soon”, “Angelica”, “Wig Wise”, “Blue Rose”, although there is no shortage of rereadings of more well-known pages such as “Dancers in Love” and “Caravan”.

The intimate atmosphere of the theatre and the concentrated attention of the audience (perfectly recreated on record by a recording of
superb quality) push Tonolo and his friends towards a refined chamber dimension, where the spontaneity of the solos is never to the detriment of the iron clarity of the musical architecture.
Motian’s mastery of performing unpredictable counterbeats (his use of brushes is also exemplary) is combined with the zigzagging phrases of Swallow’s bass and the transparent looseness of lines of Goldstein’s piano and accordion.

Mutual listening is a fundamental part of this way of understanding jazz, avoiding prevarications and favoring an overall dimension that sees Tonolo giving us memorable solos for creativity and instrumental ability.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.