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Flavio Ambrosetti: Anniversary

Although he may not be a household name in the average American jazz household, alto saxophonist Flavio Ambrosetti is highly regarded as a father figure in modern jazz in Europe. Credited with spearheading the bebop movement in Europe, the Swiss-born saxophonist emerged on the jazz scene during the late swing era by playing tenor in addition to piano and vibraphone, but it wasn’t until switching to the alto that he leaped to the rhythmically forceful, harmonically intricate, and gusty improvisational bravado of bebop. During his 25-year career, Ambrosetti has performed with a plethora of jazz legends that includes Cannonball Adderly, Donald Byrd, Kenny Drew, Lee Konitz, Herbie Hancock, Grady Tate and Art Taylor. This noteworthy two-disc anthology, Anniversary, gives much credence to all the critical praise that has positioned Ambrosetti as the Charlie Parker of Europe.

Spanning from 1949 to 1976, and logically programmed in chronological order, Anniversary features Ambrosetti performing the tried and true classics “Perdido,” “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” “Straight No Chaser,” and “Darn That Dream,” with great cocksure authority and sparkling ingenuity. But it’s his originals, such as the bristling “Our Suite Dig,” that enliven this collection. Featuring a fiery trumpet solo from his son, Franco Ambrosetti, as well as a lovely solo from pianist George Gruntz, “Our Suite Dig” finds Ambrosetti swinging hard in and out of conventional bebop and free jazz, then later nestling in a cozy blues setting. Equally engaging is the haunting “Atisiul,” which showcases Ambrosetti’s prowess on soprano. Less convincing, however, is his nod to funk on the dated-sounding “Alpen Honky Funk,” that sounds like a recycled Eddie Harris.

But withstanding minor flaws, Anniversary is a solid collection of work and, more importantly, a welcoming entry into the music of one of Europe’s most stalwart practitioners of bebop.

Originally Published