Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Oscar Valdambrini (b. 1924, Turin) was first noticed as a valued trumpeter in the early 1950s. In 1955 he created an Italian sextet; from 1956 onwards he was involved in various quintets with Gianni Basso, as well as making important contribution to Armando Trovajoli’s big band in 1957-’58; he was also involved with the most famous jazz names (Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Maynard Ferguson, Kenny Clark, etc) and participated in countless festivals and concerts. His amazing career is the envy of those possessing great knowledge in this field.
Personnel: Gianni Basso (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Oscar Valdambrini (trumpet); Ettore Righello (piano); Lionello Bionda (drums).
Liner Note Author: Andrea Di Gennaro.
Recording information: Milan (12/11/1970/12/16/1970).
Hardcore jazz fans justifiably hold the various pioneering bands led by trumpeter Gianni Basso and saxophonist Oscar Valdambrini to a high standard. For the longest time, these two recordings were dismissed as inferior curiosa by "intelligentsia" because these two dates -- whose mysterious titles are actually their catalog numbers in Fonit's Usignolo Series -- were recorded especially as sound library filler for radio and television. Perhaps Basso, Valdambrini, and their bandmates -- pianist Ettore Righello, bassist Giorgio Azzolini, and drummer Lionello Bionda -- were at their peak critically and commercially when they undertook these sessions, and split shortly thereafter. Whatever the reason, this reissue by Schema proves the critics wrong. There are 20 tunes in this collection -- seven by Valdambrini, one by Basso, the rest by other Italian jazzers -- rooted in blues/hard bop and mid-'60s Blue Note aesthetics (with the occasional nod at cinema courtesy of the RAI Orchestra helping out in places) -- that swing, strut, and groove. The highlights are numerous. Valdambrini's "Valba" features a popping pizzicato bassline from Azzolini and tight, responsive dialogic phrasing from Basso on a muted horn. "Maglione," one of six tunes by Alberto Pizzigoni (aka Agoni) has a modernist bent, with beautiful soloing by the saxophonist, while the immediate follow-up, "Muy," is a simple, blues-based swinger. The closer on the first session is Valdambrini's "From Me," which inverts and syncopates Miles Davis' "So What." The second half of the offering contains the set's longest track, Basso's elegant, noirish blues "Gum" with a killer Sonny Clark-esque head and fine solos from each of member of the frontline and Righello. "Glaucus" by Walter Deodati is colorful in its striated horn charts criss-crossing hard bop with the active, modern big-band imaginations of Oliver Nelson and Gerald Wilson. Valdambrini's playful "Pick Up" is all groove despite its knotty, slightly dissonant intro. "Washington Bridge" is a blazing bebop tune that, at under three minutes, is all too brief. The lithe Brazilian groove in "E'Molto Facile," by Atillo Donadio, is tempered by elegant post-bop. Closer "Transistor" contains a loping West Coast groove, with a decidedly Roman melody inside a blues vamp. The basic truth here is that Fonit H602-H603 is no less engaging than Basso-Valdambrini's best work, even if the tunes are more concise (and commercially oriented). This is an essential acquisition for the group's fans as well as those of Italian jazz in general, and not because it is a specialty item, but because it's killer. [Schema has also issued this set on a heavyweight double-LP with the CD included.] ~ Thom Jurek