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Check In by Roberto Magris Europlane

The recording Check In fronted by Italian pianist and composer Roberto Magris is a magnificent collection of original compositions "book ended" with standards by Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. Recorded in September of 2003, Check In comprises 8 tunes covering nearly an hour of wonderfully swinging straight ahead jazz.

The CD kicks off with an up tempo free form improvisation between the two tenors trading 8s accompanied only by the drums. This mix leads right into a burning rendition of the Johnny Mercer classic "I Remember You." Each of the saxophonists plays neatly off each other in an intricate counterpoint of melodic invention. The head played by the two saxophonists leads right into a piano solo by leader Roberto Magris. Magris wastes no time demonstrating his solid technique at the keyboard as he winds deftly from one end to the other in creating an exciting solo. Not to be outdone tenor saxophonist Michael Erian also contributes a buoyant invention.

Stand out original tunes on Check In includes the Magris’ "Blues for my Sleeping Baby" and "African Mood." With both tenors playing the head in unison, "Blues for my Sleeping Baby" sounds strongly reminiscent of Charles Mingus’ writing. This is even more strongly evident with occasional stop time measures catching the listener’s ear momentarily off guard as part of developing melodic interest. "African Mood" is a modal vamp that brings to mind the modal work of McCoy Tyner and especially Herbie Hancock’s "Maiden Voyage." The soprano saxophone solos are both soothing melodic forays that weave trance-like lines over the slow moving harmonies below.

"Luci Lontane" is a slower more laid back tune that again provides an excellent vehicle for the dual saxophonists as they demonstrate their abilities to create interesting lines of counterpoint around each other’s melodies. "What Blues," another modal tune is laid out with a simple 4 bar riff played in harmony by the two saxes. Both saxophonists stretch right out in very comfortable sounding solos, letting it all hang out with hanging it out over the edge.

The three standards that close the recording are excellent examples of the fine musicianship on Check In. "Why Did I Choose You" provides the ensemble an opportunity to play a lush ballad and create musical statements that are meaningful and profound. Cole Porter’s "I Concentrate on You" is another fun romp with tenor and soprano saxes playing the head with a smooth and refined delivery. Solos likewise flow like fine wine from the saxophones of Lakatos and Erian and there is no lack of swing anywhere in the ensemble. Magris again demonstrates his improvisational artistry creating a compelling solo. The final tune "Che Cosa C’E’" played only by Magris, bassist Robert Balzar and drummer Gabriele Centis is delightful coda to the previous set of tunes, and allows leader Magris to truly have the last word on this recording.

Check In by Roberto Magris Europlane is a CD that packs a lot of listening delight. The musicianship is superb, the original tunes are inventive, and the interpretations of standards are refreshing. For lovers of good straight ahead jazz, Check In would be a most welcome addition to a jazz CD collection.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Roberto Magris Europlane
  • CD Title: Check In
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Black Saint
  • Tracks: I Remember You, Blues For My Sleeping Baby, African Mood, Luci Lontane, What Blues?, Why Did I Choose You, I Concentrate On You, Che Cosa CE'.'
  • Musicians: Tony Lakatos (Soprano and Tenor Saxophones), Michael Erian (Soprano and Tenor Saxophones), Roberto Magris (Piano), Robert Balzar (Bass), Gabriele Centis (Drums), Fulvio Zafret (Congas)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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