Just listening to a recording of the Stefano di Battista Quartet from this year’s Vitoria-Gasteiz Festival in the Basque Country. It’s a terrific recording of a band in full flow – Battista (alto & soprano sax) is aided and abetted by the superb Baptiste Trotignon (organ), Eric Harland (drums) and Fabrizio Rosso (trumpet). Together, they cook up quite a storm.
Di Battista was born in Rome in 1969 and has come swiftly through the ranks to emerge as one of the most promising of a new and hugely-talented generation of Italian jazz musicians. Italian jazz, like that of Norway, seems to be going through a real renaissance at the moment with veterans like Enrico Rava and Gianluigi Trovesi playing alongside (relative) tyros like di Battista, Paolo Fresu and Stefano Bollani, and to great effect.
di Battista made his first serious career moves in Paris during the mid-90’s, working with the likes of Michel Petrucciani and Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine. An initial solo album for Label Bleu (‘Volare’) led to a contract with Blue Note and a succession of albums designed to show di Battista in a variety of settings. The band I’m currently listening to is essentially that which recorded di Battista’s fifth Blue Note album, ‘Trouble Shootin” (2007), a very good album indeed, but probably his last one for the label as he seems to have become a non-person on the Blue Note website.
‘Trouble Shootin’ mines a vein of exploratory organ-based jazz which was previously the territory of players like Larry Young . The mood is fierce and fiery throughout with bravura trumpet from Rosso and Trotignon keen to explore the full compass of the organ’s possibilities. They are joined on the cd by guitarist Russell Malone who does not appear on the live recording from Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Prior to ‘Trouble Shootin”, di Battista had released(in 2005) an album called ‘Parker’s Mood’ which I haven’t heard. This took on some of the tunes most closely associated with Charlie Parker and seems to have secured quite a favourable response.
However, in 2003, di Battista released ‘Round about Roma’ an epic project featuring himself with a quartet (himself, pianist Eric Legnini, double bassist Rosario Bonaccorso and drummer Andre Ceccarelli) and a full orchestra playing a set of Vince Mendoza arrangements of his own or di Battista’s original tunes, with the exception of Nino Rota’s theme from ‘Romeo & Juliet’. This, in a word, is a magnificent CD and I would recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in jazz. Yes, it’s unapologetically romantic and lush, but it’s also brilliantly executed with style and swing. Music for a summer’s evening in Trastavere, a bottle of Montepulciano in close attendance and a Vitello Milanese on the way….and of course ,an idealised companion to share it all with.