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Mick Rossi: They Have a Word for Everything

Pianist/composer Mick Rossi may not be a household name to jazz fans, partly because he has performed in a variety of musical contexts, but, as this CD demonstrates, he’s a gifted, broadly educated artist. A few years ago Rossi cut Inside the Sphere (Cadence), a trio record with bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Charles Descarfino. They appear here along with trumpeter Dave Douglas and alto and baritone saxophonist Andy Laster.

Rossi’s compositions are drawn from several genres. There’s a lot of variety on his opening piece, “Camus.” It contains odd and shifting meters and sections that range in mood from tender to bizarrely humorous. There are a couple of waltz themes here, “As If” and the more complex, chromatic “Translator,” which has some rubato improvisation on it. “Haus” is another piece that has a humorous quality. It contains two quite different piano solos, one has a blistering, crashing quality and the other is pensive. “They Have a Word for Everything,” the title track, has been influenced by Bill Frisell’s writing; it has a slightly gospelish quality. On “Collision,” an unaccompanied piano piece, Rossi uses tone clusters. He employs atonality on “The Shadow of a Thrush,” and two sets of chord progressions simultaneously during “I Stop There.”

In his writing, Rossi draws on all sorts of influences: Keith Jarrett, Frisell, Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Bach, Scriabin, Shostakovich and Schoenberg. Some of the playing here is free; some is based on chord changes. Rossi’s arrangements also deserve praise; he’s used the five men in his group in a number of interesting ways.

Rossi’s the main soloist here, and a unique and impressive one. He’s synthesized the work of many pianists in his style, the most obvious of which, when he plays lyrically, is Jarrett, but also turns in percussive Cecil Taylorlike work. He has excellent technique and displays it on some tracks, but plays economically as well.

Laster and Douglas improvise impressively, although they don’t get a whole lot of room. The ensemble work of both is top notch.

Originally Published