All About Jazz
April 2006 By Nic Jones (www.allaboutjazz.com)
Heres further evidence of the fact that theres a whole lot of mileage left in the modern mainstream. Theres a slightly acidic quality to Tommaso Staraces alto sax, which serves among other things to set him at some distance from many of the more common influences. On the level of a player, then, this puts him in a good position, especially in view of the fact that his work on the soprano sax might be described as akin to a quirk-free Lol Coxhill, which at least places Starace in one of the most sparsely populated classes.
What completely separates him from the pack, however, is the fact that his compositions have character, and that he has taken the trouble to put together a programme inspired by the photos of Elliott Erwitt, a member of the Magnum agency formed by Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa and others in 1947. Starace has paid enough attention to the visual inspirations behind the music for the whole thing to work. This is perhaps best exemplified by “Tongue In Cheek,” an uptempo romp the like of which is fitting both for the title and the photo which inspired it.
On the likes of “Tickets... Please!” there is a reflective quality that a few more ”young lions” might acquire if they ever get around to doing something other than laying all that technique on us. The same is true of “Loving Gloves,” where the connection between the music and the photo “being played” is abundantly obvious.
The presence of both vibes and piano in a group of this sort is not uncommon. Not only do the two instruments avoid any potential clashes, but the music is enhanced by the assembled players—making one realise just how deft this group is as a unit. The solo inputs of vibist Roger Beaujolais and pianist Liam Noble make for a disc that is also not lacking in contrasts.
All in all Starace has much to be proud of here, not least because with the more time that passes the more difficult it becomes to carve out an individual identity in this area. In so doing, he has also pulled off the not inconsiderable feat of putting together a programme of music that stands on its own at the same time as it draws fruitfully on another strand of the arts for inspiration.