Rare, it is, a CD of jazz is so superior it literally takes your breath away. In a nutshell, Mosaic Orchestra, Vol. 1 by Giovanni Maier is great. From the opening notes of the off-kilter "Genetic Deficit," right through to the final notes of a slap-dash version of "Jelly Roll" Morton’s "Black Bottom Stomp," the seven Italian musicians brought together here document one of the strongest cases for why the future of jazz may be in the hands of Europeans.
Maier, bassist with one of the best large music aggregates on the scene today, the Italian Instabile Orchestra, has assembled and arranged for his musicians a collection of originals and covers in so musical a vein one can only hope this is the CD that helps bring him the attention he has worked so hard to deserve. The music on the disc truly speaks for itself. Every track is a gem of conception, arrangement, and execution.
While every piece is deserves celebrating, a few descriptive notes about one work will help to highlight why this disc is essential listening and provide a porthole into the others. "Prayer" opens with a beautiful bass melody accompanied by horn chords, and dischords, along with ascending pianistic flyers before giving way to a free jazz statement by Lauro Rossi on trombone. The temerity of the ensemble’s accompaniment behind the trombone pays homage to careful listening and subjugating oneself to the concept of the whole. Maier’s bass solo brings the mood down to a more somber level before a swash of horn chords leads us back into the original head, here transfixed and moved to Rossi’s trombone. The grandeur of the horn restatement that follows brings out the idée fixe and rounds out eight stellar minutes of music. So concise and wholly conceived is the arrangement it could easily have gone on and on without tire.
The way in which Maier, the sole arranger of the music, is able to mix hard-bop lines with free-jazz moments and ostinati shows the concepts to not be in juxtaposition, but truly complementary sides of the jazz lineage. In both "Genetic Deficit" and "Akabikalibi," as just two examples contained within, the merging of what jazz history books will tell are styles that do not belong together proves they were obviously written without knowing how the progression of European jazz has fused America’s classic music with a new life, apart from the retread of old ideas so often found in the United States today.
All of this doesn’t even begin to take into account the high level of musicianship found throughout. Umberto Petrin never allows his high degree of technical proficiency to get in the way of his music making, and Saverio Tasca makes a strong statement to being the next in the developmental line of jazz vibraphonists. The three horn players are equally adept, Maier is a monster, and Zeno De Rossi on drums holds it all together through subtle shifts of color and tasteful cries of delight.
It might be hard to find this disc, but once you do you’ll be sharing it with your friends to the point of preoccupation.