June 2011 By Alison Hoblyn (The Oxford Times)

'Oxford is blessed to garner such talent'
It’s a good name – worthy of a player in this ‘Jazz Elite’ series of concerts; Star - ace (actually Italian and pronounced Starachay.) Tommaso certainly is an ace sax player - both soprano and alto - and he was surrounded by a veritable galaxy of stars including Roger Beaujolais on vibraphone, Laurence Cottle on electric bass guitar and Chris Nickolls on drums. Beaujolais was a treat. He’s recorded with the likes of Duffy and Rumer and he stepped into the performance at short notice. The carillon sound of his vibes was just right in the wonderful acoustic of St Michael. It’s great to see a church used for live music and the musicians were suitably creative in the space. Starace even began with a winsome ‘Let Us Play!’ Starace has an impressive CV, working and composing alongside respected musicians. His set list included two of his own compositions from his latest CD, BLOOD AND CHAMPAGNE. I particularly liked SOUNDTRACK, conjuring up narrative, filmic scenes for me (his work is often inspired by visual images.) This began with a plaintive, almost regretful tone and then the soprano sax pushed up the pace and energy. If this was a soundtrack to a life then it was in its mid-thirties. The great conclusion began with a banshee wail and moved into a dithering dialogue with the vibes, before a husky concluding note. Starace also paid homage to Michel Petrucciani with several of his engaging pieces. I favoured the second set with its mix of reflective and energetic numbers and enjoyed Brazilian-inspired GUADELOUPE, which had the mellowness I’d been waiting for, and the conversational and intimate RACHID. By this time the audience was well-pleased but then came some manically accurate bebop passages, with spot-on timing between the musicians; they infiltrated BOHEMIA AFTER DARK (made famous by Cannonball Adderley) and the concluding numbers left us all super-energised. Oxford is blessed to garner such talent.