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Review: Tomasso Starace @ Wade Street Church

Virtuoso saxophonist Tomasso Starace paid his respects to a jazz musician and composer when he returned to Lichfield with his latest project.

Simply Marvellous – Celebrating the Music of Michel Petrucciani is a critically-acclaimed tribute album to the influential pianist who’s storied career saw him working with musicians of the calibre of Charles Lloyd, Wayne Shorter, Steve Gadd and Stanley Clarke, as well writing and recording more than thirty albums as a leader.

Tomasso Starace

Tomasso Starace

With a quintet that included pianist Michele Di Toro and trumpeter Damon Brown, the concert was a well-thought out set that paid respects to the music. This was no mere grandstanding exercise for the band, all of the songs were played in the original keys, rather than being transposed to make them easier for the saxophone, and the busy rhythm playing meant that the brisk pace of many of the pieces was maintained.

Tomasso Starace, a Birmingham Conservatoire graduate, has been busy developing a career of high quality performances and releases, and the seriousness of his intent was evident in this performance, not only in the integrity of the music, but also in the required stamina to play much of it, with single pieces stretching past the ten minute mark,and containing many shifts in mood, key, and time signature.

Gospel piano, mixed with jazz drumming and simple themes in many pieces, the appreciative audience and the quality of sound in Wade Street Church meant that the music was heard to its best advantage.

The concert began with Duke Ellington’s Caravan which segued into Petrucciani’s She Did It Again. The influence of classical music on Petrucciani’s own development was shown, with a solo piano rendition of Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, which pre-faced the delicate Even Mice Dance.

September Second was a ballad, while the first set closer – Simply Bop – was a complicated, but catchy piece, full of musical developments, and allowed for some appreciated playing from the five players in the band.

The second half saw the joyful Looking Up alongside Starace’s own composition, Marvellous, which showed the influence of Petrucciani.

Starace switched to soprano saxophone for a couple of pieces, while the brooding Hidden Joy skipped through many feelings and moods.

The set finished with the unison saxophone and trumpet piece Manhattan which was Petrucciani’s tribute to New York.

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