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Tchicai, Fewell, Tracanna, Dalla Porta, Manzi: Big Chief Dreaming

An unusual mixture of leftward-leaning (if not quite free) jazz by a multicultural cooperative that includes the Boston-based guitarist Garrison Fewell, Danish tenor saxophonist John Tchicai and a trio of Italians: soprano and tenor saxophonist Tino Tracanna, bassist Paolino Dalla Porta and drummer Massimo Manzi.

Fewell and the rhythm section are boppers at heart. The guitarist seems most at home on tunes like the easy-swinging “Simplicity,” where his lithe melodicism is given room to shine. He’s capable of exercising his lyricism on freer material as well. Dalla Porta and Manzi groove nicely, and while their free-time playing doesn’t seem to flow as naturally, they’re sensitive enough to pull it off. Tracanna is a clean, relatively precise post-Coltrane improviser-not terribly original but clever in his way. Tchicai, while best known as a free player, plays the heck out of the chord change- and modal-inspired pieces.

While Fewell and Tracanna contribute some nice tunes, Tchicai’s are the quirkiest and most interesting on the album. Everything’s well rehearsed and finely crafted-perhaps too finely crafted. Everyone minds his manners. There’s not much peering out over the precipice. Still, there’s some good stuff, and it’s always a treat to hear Tchicai.

Originally Published