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Lou Grassi Quartet: Avanti Galoppi

The sound of drummer Lou Grassi’s quartet on Avanti Galoppi is pure Ornette Coleman: snaky melodies, soulful horn tones and the kind of aching melancholy Coleman injected into every note. Not that Grassi and his cohorts are imitators. Rather, they cleverly capture Coleman’s elusive moods, translating them into a set of forward-looking compositions.

That feat is even more impressive given the compositional variety on Avanti Galoppi (a title meaning “gallop ahead,” itself a possible homage to Coleman titles like Tomorrow Is the Question!). Each band member writes at least one song, and the range is striking: saxophonist Rob Brown offers an aching duet with trumpeter Herb Robertson on “Underground Elevation,” while Grassi’s title track sounds like a quickened take on Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” Later, the circling melody and funky interludes of bassist Ken Filiano’s “Dancing Shadows” provide the album’s high point. As the CD progresses, the band stretches out its collective sound, culminating in a raging Robertson workout called “Willie B.”

Perhaps such democratic creativity is where the Quartet diverges most from its influences. Grassi is an adept leader, but his group is a true collective, with each individual part deployed in service of Avanti Galoppi’s stunning whole.

Originally Published