Fugace

COMPOSERS: Gianluigi Trovesi Octet
LABELS: ECM
PERFORMER: Gianluigi Trovesi Octet
CATALOGUE NO: 066 583-2

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Is there such a thing as European jazz? On the face of it this is a perfectly straightforward question, but like so many straightforward questions in jazz, there are no straightforward answers.

A European playing jazz does not always make for ‘European’ jazz. While jazz may be a universal language, its roots are American. Yet with the globalisation of jazz, the music has been taken in new directions and shaped by the cultural environment in which it has found itself.

This is especially true in continental Europe, where musicians are increasingly turning to their own musical culture as a means of colouring and shaping the language of jazz, both as a way of asserting their identity and to celebrate their place in the music.

Not many jazz musicians have had booklet notes supplied by Umberto Eco, but two years ago an album by GIANLUIGI TROVESI claimed this distinction, a measure of the high regard in which this composer, arranger and saxophonist is held in his native Italy.

His new release, Fugace, made with his Octet, is a stunning example of the way a strong sense of local identity can build upon the foundation of Afro-American jazz. In the same way that Louis Armstrong’s music reflected New Orleans or Duke Ellington’s music Harlem, Trovesi reflects the influence of his home town of Bergamo.

African Triptych is a journey through the whole history of jazz as seen through Neapolitan eyes; vivid Mediterranean hues embrace the spirit of Armstrong, echoed in the Triptych’s third movement ‘Western Dream’, while ‘Blues and West’ is a Neapolitan reimagining of Armstrong’s ‘West End Blues’.

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Trovesi’s dancing, folkloric themes and bursts of vivid colour have the power to make jazz seem very much a Mediterranean thing – as Eco observed, ‘the meeting of apparently incompatible traditions conjures up the ghosts of non-existent musical families’.