Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bobby Selvaggio. Short Stories

Bobby Selvaggio.  Short Stories.
Origin Records, 2014.  Bobby Selvaggio:

I’ve enjoyed Bobby Selvaggio’s music for several years, and reviewed his Modern Times for another blog back in 2009.  For some reason, his music hits me in the right spot--forward-thinking post-bop but not too avant-garde, with plenty to hold onto.  Currently the Director of Jazz Studies at Kent State University, he is also a local boy, from Twinsburg.  I seem to recall that he also had (or still has) a private music school down the road from Hiram, in Aurora.  This latest release is his sixth, seventh, or eighth, depending on what you read.  His last album, Grass Roots Movements, didn’t get reviewed here for some reason, but we’ll catch up now.  

He opens the set with “Eye of Jupiter,” a fast-paced romp that shows off Selvaggio’s dexterity and enthusiasm, with some fine work by Aaron Goldberg on piano.  Later, “Rubber Monkeys” does a bit of the same thing, with a lots of start-stop action, reminiscent of “Salt Peanuts,” and shows off the other musicians, especially Chris Baker on drums.  Selvaggio is more bop-like here.  Third in the faster-tempo category is “Blues for J,” where everybody gets some time to show off, including Ashley Summers on bass.  The interaction here between Selvaggio and Goldberg is music to get lost in, and Goldberg really takes off here.

The remaining tracks tend to be either mid-tempo or ballads, and they are a lovely assortment of tunes.  “Song for Rebecca” was written for Selvaggio’s grandmother, and offers a tasteful sweetness mixed with lots of strong phrasing.  He and Goldberg share the spotlight, and it’s easy to tell that Goldberg is not just a sideman, but has plenty to offer in the foreground as well.  “Boulevard at Capucines in Paris” doesn’t remind me of the city, but is a fine ballad that allows for thoughtful interchanges among all the musicians, together and in solo.  The following track, “Ceprano Man,” starts off with Summers’ bass, and adds Goldberg, Selvaggio, and Baker in turn in a midtempo piece that heads for the stratosphere in the middle section.  The group finishes with “Summers End,” a fitting ballad with a beautiful noir-like melody, simultaneously pretty and sad.  It’s a  great song for a November day.  “Price of Being” is a curious, two part piece, featuring Selvaggio on solo sax in the Intro, followed by the rest of the group in the main part along a similar theme.  Delicate and exquisite work.  

The album as a whole is highly expressive, gorgeously played, and near the top of my list for finest albums of the year.  Too bad I don’t get to make those lists.

Personnel:  Bobby Selvaggio (alto saxophone), Aaron Goldberg (piano), Ashley Summers (bass), Chris Baker (drums).
Tracks: Eye of Jupiter, Song for Rebecca, Price of Being (Intro), Price of Being, Rubber Monkeys, Boulevard at Capucines in Paris, Ceprano Man, Blues for J, Summers End.

Jeff Wanser

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