Personnel: Riccardo Luppi (flute, piccolo, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); Daniele Cavallanti (flute, baritone saxophone); Beppe Caruso (trombone); Tiziano Tononi (drums, percussion).
Liner Note Authors: Warren Blumberg; Riccardo Luppi.
Recording information: 06/2002.
There have been several serious explorations of Duke Ellington's music since his death, but the best are those, like this one, which use his remarkable body of work for inspiring new forms. Riccardo Luppi makes few albums under his own name, but each one is worth owning for its new way of looking at the world. This one, for instance, which may be his best to date, includes popular songs from the Ellington repertoire that have been rearranged for sextet by Luppi. But these are hardly simple or straight interpretations. For one thing, Luppi writes short introductions to each piece incorporating radical slices of harmony related to the tune. Even the versions of the tunes themselves incorporate clever deconstructions that sometimes hint at and at other times absorb the melodic structures. Luppi uses some of the finest Italian jazz performers to achieve his results, and there are solid improvisations all the way around. Beppe Caruso mimics Lawrence Brown, to be sure, but for the most part the solos delve into new ground -- no retrospective here. Luppi contributes mightily to the success of this venture, not only with his composing and arranging skills but also with compelling work on six woodwinds. There are free sections, rollicking rhythms, electrified (and electrifying) guitar, and plenty of familiar ground, too. Anyone seriously interested in Ellington will wish to hear this unusual collection of his works, which stands on its own as an important recording. ~ Steven Loewy