Tommaso Starace – Simply Marvellous! ★★★

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Tommaso Starace (as, ss), Fabrizio Bosso (t, flhn), Roger Beaujolais (vib), Michele Di Toro (p), Attilio Zanchi (b) and Tommy Bradascio (d). Rec. 4-5 August 2012

It might seem a bit perverse for a saxophonist to celebrate a force of nature pianist like the late Michel Petrucciani, who’s best remembered for his rollicking technique and open-hearted and generous musical spirit. But the pianist was also a prolific composer and it is Petrucciani’s compositional canon that saxophonist Starace celebrates here with his regular quartet, and guest trumpet and vibes.

Petrucciani certainly wrote good tunes. And like all gifted composers, his strong melodies, catchy lines and harmonic structures were all of a piece. Starace’s selection takes in the jolly and the austere – ‘Little Peace in C for You’ and ‘Even Mice Can Dance’ – as well as latin and township soul. And ‘My Bebop Tune’ is taken in unison at a fair old lick. If nothing else, this CD should make people more aware of the range of Petrucciani’s songwriting talent and look to his songbook for source material.

The execution, though, is a bit too straightforward to get at the Petrucciani essence. Starace is a solid alto saxophonist with some nice lines, and delivers the themes accurately and with feeling. Trumpet and vibes add variety and pianist Michele Di Toro gets in some neat two-handed stuff. But the CD needs more fire and flamboyance to truly celebrate the Petrucciani canon.

Mike Hobart