Roberto Ottaviano

Eternal Love
Dodicilune Dischi Ed 411

A fine instance of how to construct a Jazz Repertory session without resorting to deification or imitation is this slick, foot-tapping, nine-track session by veteran Italian soprano saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano. The saxophonist, who has wo4ekd with multiple Jazzers, including Mal Waldron and Aldo Romano, leads a quintet in homage not only to his main influence, John Coltrane – on “Your Lady” – but also with particular takes on other Jazz heroes. Curiously, like a select group of Northern-Italian players, including Daniele Cavallanti, Carlo Actis and Tiziano Tononi, Ottaviano also has an affinity for African-oriented sounds, and most of tracks, beginning with “Uhuru”, the first, represent this sound imagery through compositions by Charlie Haden Abdullah Ibrahim, Dewey Redman, Elton Dean and Don Cherry

Ottaviano also works with a first-rate back-up crew: Italians, clarinetist Marco Colonna, bassist Giovanni Maier, drummer Zeno De Rossi and Briton Alexander Hawkins moving among piano, Rhodes and Hammond organs. Hawkins’ ambidextrous skills come into focus throughout, especially on the traditional African anthem “Uhuru”, when the contrapuntally harmonized reeds are accompanied upfront by piano formalism and in the background with churchy double-keyboard tremolos. The same sort of Third World extravaganza characterizes Cherry’s “Until the Rain Comes”, the final track, where darkened piano chords lead into a rhythm via De Rossi that appears half-Reggae and half-Highlife, borne on jiggling clarinet puffs and flutter-tongued soprano splutters. Colonna, whose associations include work with Eugenio Colombo, adds to the variety with speedy coloratura tones mated with Native Indian-like marches on Haden’s “Chairman Mao”. He then turns around on Redman’s “Mushi Mushi” and outputs heavy-hitting reed slices joined by thwacking double bass and keyboard rolls to create a post-modern Swing piece.

Contributing atmospheric story-telling and descriptive shading during his solos throughout, Ottaviano also contributes a couple of his own compositions, the title track which adds sweet reed pitches to a buzzing bass line and rat-tat-tat drumming for a relaxed exposition; and “Eternal Love:, which is more accelerated than affectionate. This speed is especially evident when saxophone slides and puffs float on top of piano pumps and cowbell whacks then transform into reed bites and tone splinters without losing the melody.

Not singular enough to be a classic, Eternal Love is still a high-quality, mostly foot-tapping display of the sort of music highly talented, highly committed improvisers are able to produce fully in the tradition and without compromise.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Uhuru 2. African Marketplace 3. Chairman Mao 4. Mushi Mushi 5. Oasis 6. Questionable 2 7. 8. Your Lady 9. Until the Rain Comes

Personnel: Roberto Ottaviano (soprano saxophone); Marco Colonna (clarinet, bass clarinet); Alexander Hawkins (piano, Rhodes, Hammond); Giovanni Maier (bass) and Zeno De Rossi (drums)