Tommaso Cappellato | Elefante Rosso (2010)
By Bruce Lindsay
Italian drummer and composer Tommaso Cappellato drives a strong and intelligent quartet on Open, his first album as leader, to create a rewarding and eclectic set of tunes that borrow innovatively from hip-hop, free jazz and funk. The album showcases Cappellato's writing talents as well as his percussion skills, while his choice of some exceptional fellow musicians—he formed the quartet in 2008—augurs well for his future as a bandleader.
The album's first track, "Nowhere, Now Here," finds Michael Blake's lyrical soprano sax taking the lead, whereas "Open" sees him demonstrating a harder-edged tone—exciting, insistent and almost aggressive at times. Blake's playing gives the album both an edge and sense of urgency that are central to its overall feel. It's an edge that carries over into "Episode 29"—where it's matched by Joe Rehmer's bass—and into the short and punchy "Scream Away," which opens with slinky drum and bass work before Blake's screeching sax bursts out and literally does what the title says it will.
The album's key track is "The Knight," an exciting and complex tune that gives all of the musicians space to shine. Blake's playing, on tenor is, once again, lyrical and melodic, while Cappellato provides a rhythmic centre as well as playing some inventive drum patterns. It's pianist Giovanni Guidi's turn to provide the attack by way of some emphatic chordal work and some firm yet precise single note patterns.
Across the rest of the album the quartet constantly displays invention and imagination. "Krishnamurti" opens with Guidi's rich piano solo, soon followed by another of Blake's beautifully rough-edged sax parts. Both musicians seem to quote from "The Ugly Duckling"—not exactly a staple for jazz improvisation—before Rehmer takes over with a short but emphatic bass solo. "He Said Then She Said" is credited to Cappellato and Rehmer, and features the two players in duet on a piece which begins in a freeform style before shifting into a hard-nosed and funky groove. "Natural Element" sees Cappellato soloing on piano, and while his playing lacks Guidi's delicacy and flow, it is still a skilled performance.
Cappellato has described Open as his "project." On this evidence it's an extremely successful one that deserves to grow and develop across more recordings, building upon this impressive and enjoyable debut.
Track listing: Nowhere, Now Here; Open; Episode 29; World Traveller; Mysteries of Life; Talk to Me; Scream Away; The Knight; Krishnamurti; He Said Then She Said; Natural Element.
Personnel: Tommaso Cappellato: drums, piano (11); Michael Blake: soprano and tenor saxophone; Giovanni Guidi: piano; Joe Rehmer: bass.
Style: Modern Jazz