Monday, April 21, 2008
Francesco Bearzatti Tinissima Quartet - Suite For Tina Modotti (Parco Della Musica, 2008) ****½
Tina Modotti was an Italian model, actress, avant-garde photographer and revolutionary political activist who died in 1942. She moved from Italy to the US, then to Mexico, then to communist Russia, then to Spain during the Civil War and back to Mexico. There's plenty to be found about her on the internet, so I won't go into her life and works here. Italian saxophonist/clarinetist Francesco Bearzatti brings homage to her with this great CD, accompanied by Giovanni Falzone on trumpet, Danilo Gallo on bass and bass guitar, and Zeno de Rossi on drums. The album is relatively programmatic in its approach, evoking her life in a chronological order, with lots of drama, contextual elements (Latin influences on "Mexico", flamenco electric bass on "Guerra Civil", or the war-like sounds on the same track) but joy, fun and happiness too in some of the uptempo pieces, as in "America" or "Missions". All of the tracks fully fit within the "suite" concept, each evolving in tempo and approach as life itself does. The great thing is that the four musicians' technical skills are sufficiently broad to master all of Bearzatti's compositional excursions, playing their way across all sorts of musical genres and subgenres effortlessly, which allows them to really explore the emotional aspects of Tina Modotti's adventurous and unusual life and personality. From swing to free jazz and avant-garde, but there is some brass band music here too, Latin, flamenco and bop, some balkan influences as well as slow funeral marches. In a way, Charlie Haden's "Ballad To The Fallen" comes to mind, in its dramatic and overtly sentimental approach, but then performed by a quartet. The real highlights are the slower tracks, such as "Russia" and "Hermana No Duermes", the last track. On the former, Bearzatti's clarinet solo will make the tears jump from your eyes, and Falzone's trumpet will force the last drop out of you, while on the latter track, Bearzatti's final solo is absolutely hair-raising in its tearing wailing, played over a repetitive one-note bass drone and clattering drums, while the muted trumpet echoes sadly in the background. Amazing stuff at times. A very rich, varied and beautiful album.