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November 1998

Conte Candoli
Portrait of a Count
Fresh Sound Records

Candoli is midway through his sixth decade of inventive trumpet playing despite a continuing dental ordeal that might have brought his career to a halt. Damage to front teeth constitutes a brass artist's nightmare. Candoli has accommodated to his changed embouchure by making fewer trips into the upper register, but his characteristic tone is mostly intact.

Long admired for his advanced harmonic sensibility, he still taps a deep reserve of rich ideas. His solo on the flowing chord changes of "Namely You" is full of them. Making fetching use of a tight Harmon mute, Candoli finds fresh things to play on "Green Dolphin Street," a piece that was all but worn out during its omnipresence in the '60s and '70s. Much of his most effective soloing of the date is into the mute. When he uses it, he relies less on clusters of triplets that are distracting on some of his open-horn solos. Inevitably, he refers to Miles Davis in a muted up-tempo performance of "If I Were a Bell," then launches into a paraphrase of "Straight No Chaser," followed by a passage of startling freedom. Such freshness is not unusual in this collection.

Candoli's colleagues are the Los Angeles stalwarts Chuck Berghofer and Joe Labarbera on bass and drums, with the Swedish pianist Jan Lundgren. All solo impressively, and there are several exciting exchanges among Labarbera and the others. Lundgren is one of Sweden's leading musicians. His visits to the United States are building his reputation here as well. In a bit of internationalism, he uses the traditional Swedish song "Värmlandsvisan (Dear Old Stockholm)" as an unaccompanied introduction to Candoli's version of "Yesterdays." To the album's 10 standards, Candoli adds the original compositions "I Dig Fig," a blues, and "Secret Passion," a ballad on which his fondness for Dizzy Gillespie is apparent. "Portrait of a Count," the Bill Russo feature for Candoli with Stan Kenton in the 1950s, is only the album title. It is not among the tunes on the CD. The fat booklet includes an interesting collection of photographs and a substantial essay about Candoli by Alun Morgan.

Originally published in November 1998
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