The Umbria Festival in Italy turns 40 this summer. Umbria presents jazz indoors and out in two historic cities — Perugia in summer, Orvieto in winter. Marching bands parade; gospel choirs sing. Concerts start at noon, midnight and all the hours in between. (The New Year's Eve show in Orvieto begins at 1 a.m. on New Year's Day.) And the musicians can be delightfully unfamiliar, at least to American ears.
The Umbria Festival discovered young bandoneonist Juan Pablo (J.P.) Jofre from Argentina as he performed in Puerto Rico and then New York, where Jofre now lives. On this installment of JazzSet, Umbria presents Jofre with the string orchestra I Solisti di Perugia in the Morlacchi Theater. Tiers of gilded boxes climb the walls, a crystal chandelier hangs from the frescoed dome, 900 people fill the theater, and Jofre — who moves like a dancer with his bandoneón — and the strings pay homage to Astor Piazzolla, creator of the new tango. Piazzolla loved to play with jazz musicians. Then Jofre offers his own composition, "Tango Movements."
Trombonist and composer Mauricio (Mauro) Ottolini is the winner of the Best Italian Musician of the Year 2012 critics' award from the magazine Musica Jazz. In addition, Ottolini plays in the Franco D'Andrea sextet, winner of the Italian Disc of the Year award, and arranged music for trumpeter Enrico Rava's new Michael Jackson tribute.
Ottolini's Sousaphonix features a dozen extraordinary musicians, a miniature universe of instruments including toys and imagination galore. "Bix Factor" is his music for a science-fiction tale (he's a co-author) about a virus spreading among people who listen to bad TV music. There is one antidote: the sweet sound of Bix Beiderbecke's horn. (Born in Iowa, Beiderbecke played cornet in the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with singer Bing Crosby. He died tragically and has been mourned and mythologized ever since.)
Ottolini's arrangements both respect and plow under early jazz with humor and precision. The Jazz Age is his musical hallucination. You can see Sousaphonix at Orvieto on YouTube videos. For a creative illustrated video of "Working Man Blues," visit here. Have a sip of absinthe and listen to "Bix Factor" on this JazzSet.
- Mauro Ottolini, trombone, sousaphone, vocals, direction
- Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke, vocals
- Stephanie Ocèan Ghizzoni, vocals, voodoo rituals, washboard
- Vincenzo Vasi, vocals, theremin, toys
- Paolo Degiuli, cornet
- Guido Bombardieri, clarinet, sax alto
- Dan Kinzelman, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
- Paolo Botti, viola, dobro
- Enrico Terragnoli, banjo, guitar, podofono
- Franz Bazzani, piano, Galvan liturgical harmonium with pedals
- Danilo Gallo, double bass
- Zeno De Rossi, drums
Sousaphonix Set List
- "Buddy Bolden's Blues" (Jelly Roll Morton)
- "Changes" (Walter Donaldson)
- "Instrumental" (unidentified)
- "The Working Man Blues" (Ottolini)
- "Bei Mir Bistu Shein" (Jacob Jacobs, Sholom Secunda)
- "Lord (Lawd), You Made The Night Too Long" (Sam M. Lewis, Victor Young)
All music arranged by Ottolini.
J.P. Jofre & I Solisti di Perugia Set List
- "Libertango" (Astor Piazzolla, arr. Jofre)
- "Invierno Porteño" (Piazzolla, arr. Jofre)
- "Tango Movements" (Jofre)
Thanks to Umbria Jazz recording engineers Gianni Grasilli and Marco Melchior. Surround Sound mixes by Duke Markos.