Rush Life is jazz pianist Antonio Ciacca’s fourth studio album that also exercises his role as a bandleader. It features his New York City based quintet of Kengo Nakamura on bass, Rodney Green on drums, Stacy Dillard on tenor saxophone, and Joe Magnerelli on trumpet. The album speaks volumes about classic American jazz, and maybe rightfully so as Ciacca played piano in Steve Grossman’s band for 3 years, and studied privately for a time with Charles Mingus’ pianist Jake Byard. In 1997, Ciacca joined Steve Lacy’s quartet before releasing his first CD as a bandleader called Hollis Avenue. Soon following in 2003 was his album, Autumn In New and then Ugly Beauty in 2006. But still feeling inspired by the music of modern day jazz performers like Wynton Marsalis, Benny Golson, Elvin Jones, and many others, Ciacca and his band have composed all new material for Rush Life. The album keeps piano based swing-bop melodies feeling fresh and moving with the times without moving the piano away from jazz.
The swing-bop phrases of "Squazini" sets the album up on the path to a string of songs that sound old-fashioned but feel like they were freshly baked. These are songs that fit right in at a Southampton soiree or played in the dining room of New York City’s Carlyle Hotel. The modern gait of the horns coupled with the melodic tapping of the piano keys create an environment filled with merriment. The sonic scales and chord sketches have a post-bop persuasion and a penchant for glorious shuffles. The rhythmic patterns provide a firm base as the piano keys knead along the drum fills and the horns sail across the bay with the easy glide of a seagull in flight. Ciacca’s piano keys nibble gingerly through "Chipewha" and have a long stride along "I Remember Clifford," which is a tribute to American jazz trumpeter, Clifford Brown. The tune "Flat 5 Flat 9" displays an artsy penmanship through the chord progressions, and returns to a savvy classic jazz-bop fare for "On Green Dolphin Street." The delicate finery of the title track is reminiscent of Bill Evans, and the striking horns of "Riverdale" are profusely jubilant reflective of Louie Armstrong. The album drifts into a cozy dining room ambience with "Prince Of Newark" and then trails into the lightly bopping swing jazz movements of "Without A Song."
Antonio Ciacca never lets his ego take over the songs. The piano is a part of the whole, and never stands superior to the rest. Everyone’s parts shine making Rush Life truly a cast ensemble. Ciacca’s position as the Director of Programming for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, which he took in 1997, has greatly influenced his music. Not in the way that it inflates his opinion of himself, but in the way that he listens and absorbs other artists music. Inspiration is all around, and Antonio Ciacca channels its vibe making music that is as much a part of him as it is a part of the world around him.