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I Compani: Aida Giuseppe Verdi

Since forming I Compani back in 1985, leader/saxophonist Bo van de Graaf has had this small orchestra explore a wide variety of nonjazz styles, from the film music of Nino Rota to original compositions steeped in tango and circus music-van de Graaf is himself a descendant of an Italian circus family. The group’s most recent project finds them interpreting Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida (Bvhaast) and taking great artistic liberty along the way. Vocalist Quirine Melssen appears on a few tracks-revealing operatic qualities, but singing with a rhythmic elasticity that complements I Compani’s jazzy, stylistic pastiche nicely-but most of the album’s 14 tracks are instrumental. It’s hard to avoid comparisons to some of Carla Bley’s more ambitious work and the more recent composition-obsessed output of fellow Dutchman Willem Breuker, but van de Graaf does put his own spin on the material. There are inspired improvisations, sly opera samples and stretches of bold style shifting-tango, blues, cabaret-and most of it is well done. It just seems like the group spent more time displaying its cleverness than thinking about its expressiveness.

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