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Stefano di Battista: Parker’s Mood

The 35 year-old Italian alto saxophonist Stefano Di Battista is another apparent beneficiary of the jazz recording world’s infatuation with young guys who play like old guys (or even better, dead dudes). Di Battista’s latest has him leading a quintet, re-creating tunes associated with Charlie Parker-and I do mean re-creating, for many of the arrangements are taken off Bird’s old Dial, Savoy and Norman Granz recordings essentially verbatim. Di Battista hasn’t a qualm about appropriating Bird’s improvisations. He mimics Parker’s famous “Night in Tunisia” break and large swaths of Bird’s solo from the issued master of “Parker’s Mood” almost note for note.

From a purely technical perspective, Di Battista is impressive. He’s got thorough command of the alto from top to bottom. He plays “Donna Lee” faster and cleaner than Bird ever did (on record anyway), which is entertaining in the same way as those simulated space rides at Disney World-if you can manage to put the utter fakeiness out of your mind, it’s almost exciting. That’s not to say I recognize the derivation of every note he plays. I’m sure he mixes in his own stuff, but overall his conception is stale. The session’s pianist, Kenny Barron, helps as much as possible. He’s so inside this music, he couldn’t play an unfelt note if he tried. Still, it’s not enough. If jazz is the sound of surprise, this is something else entirely.

Originally Published