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Sicilian Opening by Salvatore Bonafede Trio

Sicilian Opening is an extraordinarily pleasant modern jazz offering from the veteran Italian jazz pianist and his highly capable trio. What I admire most about this CD is the trio’s obvious musical chemistry, and their ability to create jazz that – while not on the cutting edge, stylistically – manages to challenge the listener despite being quite accessible and pleasant to listen to. Like the Hungarian-born pianist (and Boston resident) Laszlo Gardony, Bonafede has a strong affinity for American roots music. The essential gospel and blues elements in Bonafede’s original compositions such as "bbbb," "It Plays From Far," and "Italian Ingegno" don’t exactly slap you in the face, but they are readily palpable. These elements are handled with consummate grace and ease by drummer Marcello Pellitteri and bassist Marco Panascia. Bonafede’s music frequently, and quite effectively, refers to the gritty Second Line rhythms of New Orleans ("Sicilian Opening" and "WWWW")–which are handled deftly by Pellitteri. I was actually kind of surprised that much of the music here isn’t exactly straight-ahead post-bop derived jazz. Instead, Bonafede’s inspirations seem to come from a variety of sources, though his music clearly comes from a jazz-oriented viewpoint.

The more atmospheric pieces on Sicilian Opening ("La Grande Ilusion," "Appunti su Palermo," and "Lode al Silenzio") are in 6/8 or 3/4 time, and have a somewhat enigmatic, minor-keyed emphasis that recall the sort of piano trio music one would find on the ECM label. The percolating, odd-metered "Torre Ligny" is in a similar vein, but is based on a melody that sounds to me like some semi-forgotten Italian folk tune filtered through "Blue Bossa." The only cover tunes on Sicilian Opening come from a different source entirely – the Beatles songbook. "Blackbird" – already covered by Tony Williams and Jaco Pastorious – gets a lovely straightforward treatment, while "She’s Leaving Home" is approached in a somewhat roundabout manner with a Latin-tinged rhythmic base. Both versions are outstanding, and demonstrate that this trio really understands how to put a song across.

It’s hard to pin Bonafede’s influences down, though some of his phrasing reminds me of Chick Corea’s, and his rich, lovingly-played harmonies and superb comping have the flavor of Bill Evans. The latter are most evident on "Ideal Standard" – perhaps the CD’s lone straight-ahead jazz tune. Bonafede’s not a flashy, pyrotechnic sort of player, though he’s not exactly a ‘spare’ sort of player like Paul Bley, either. To my ears, he’s more like Richie Beirach or Bill Mays – eloquent, understated, often profound, and always worth listening to.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Salvatore Bonafede Trio
  • CD Title: Sicilian Opening
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Jazz Eyes
  • Rating: Four Stars
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