by Thom Jurek

This 1995 live date of the Italian group known as Jazz in Trio -- Salvatore Bonafede, piano; Dario Deidda, bass; Mimmo Cafiero, drums -- is one of their most electrifying on record. With a wild swirl of compositions and covers sometimes folded gloriously into one another, this trio manages to sing their way through a set seamlessly, evoking all of jazz's important periods, and infusing them with both a European sense of classicism and a Roman sense of melodic invention. A stellar example is the opening medley of Bonafede's "My Sun" with Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing." Bonafede delves deep into Vince Guaraldi for his inspiration in bridging the two pieces. Yes, Vince Guaraldi. "My Sun" comes out of the gate all augmented percussive chords, playing ostinato around a three chord figure, opening the harmonic range enough to allow the minors and flats to come through. "Bemsha Swing" is folded neatly -- and without compromise -- into the middle of this maelstrom with Deidda punching up the rhythmic accents on an electric bass, which are crowned with cymbal flourishes by Cafiero. There is no dearth of drunken blues swing no matter how knotty and wildly melodic it gets. For "Bye Bye Blackbird," the trio uses Miles' mode and creates a separate harmonic for the line and its inversion so that the rhythm section is playing a kind of late-night counterpoint to Bonafede's melodic lead. Another moment of deep angular medley making is when Bonafede sidles his "Zero" up to Ornette's nugget, "When Will the Blues Leave," and lets them have at a go at each as Christmas carols! With the march tempo set by Cafiero, and Deidda playing an ostinato drone to the point of hypnosis, Bonafede is free to move in and out of his composition "Angels We Have Hard on High," and with a single note shift from Deidda, into Ornette's slamming blues that seems to appear from all directions at once. This is piano jazz at its finest and most delightfully confounding.