Over several decades of his illustrious vocation as a musician in Europe and the US, the pianist Roberto Magris has amassed a vast repertoire all his own, much of which is so unique and so enduring that it has come to sound – especially when he plays it – like something out of a sort of classic library of Jazz standards. His ability to write music in a range of tempos and his rapturous ballads are even as distinctive as those written by Billy Strayhorn and others, which, again when performed by him, leave a lasting impression on the senses. An unforgettable example of the latter is “Song for an African Child”, which he and the rest of this marvellous sextet play early on in this set conjure, most vividly, not only a glimmering seemingly holographic portrait of the dedicatee, but also describe the tenderness expressed in the song in an absolutely visceral manner.
But that is not all. Mr. Magris often refers to some of his compositions as “Blues…” this or that. Many other musicians do so, but few white musicians – and Europeans, at that – express the elemental sadness and uplifting hope in the guts of the melody and the improvisations that come from these melodic and harmonic innards. This is a very rare gift indeed and must surely be the reason why Mr. Magris enjoys a deeply fulfilling relationship with the music of Jazz and the love and respect of musicians and audiences who perform with him and come out to hear his music everywhere in the world. His soli are raw and he peppers the keyboard with expansive gestures and curiously created string-like glissandos (as on “Il Bello del Jazz”) and chordal mash-ups and rolling fisted clusters reminiscent of the inimitable Don Pullen.
However, just when you think he is influenced by Mr. Pullen, his singular, expansive and infinitely graceful voice sails into view changing forever your perspective and impression of him. In fact, if at all, he is closer to the modal style of playing, deeply rooted in its tenets as by suggested by George Russell in his book an Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (1953). Listeners often have a front-row of this on charts such as “What Blues?” and “Standard Life” on this wonderful album. And the same listeners are also often silenced and utterly gob-smacked by his solo sojourns – a superb example of this is the classic that calls to mind the undisputed greatness of Billy Strayhorn: “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”.
This sextet – comprising the celebrated Brian Lynch on trumpet, younger virtuoso Jonathan Gomez on tenor saxophone and percussion colourist Murph Aucamp on congas together with veterans Chuck Bergeron and John Yarling on bass and drums respectively – is exquisitely adept at fleshing out Mr. Magris’ originals as well as the beautiful “April Morning” by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who infused it with his singular, anthem-like clarion cry ‘bright moments’ throughout the piece. And all of this from start to finish has been captured in the expansive acoustic of the WDNA Jazz Gallery, Miami by Stephen Malagodi for J-Mood Records a wonderful archive for Robert Magris, the brainchild of Paul Collins.
Track list – 1: African Mood; 2: What Blues? 3: Song for an African Child; 4: April Morning; 5: Chachanada; 6: Il Bello del Jazz; 7: A Flower is a Lovesome Thing; 8: Standard Life; 9: Blues for My Sleeping Baby
Personnel – Brian Lynch: trumpet; Jonathan Gomez – tenor saxophone; Roberto Magris: piano; Chuck Bergeron: contrabass; Murph Aucamp: congas
Released – 2017
Label – J-Mood Records
Runtime – 1:17:13