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Ada Rovatti: Airbop (2005)

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Ada Rovatti: Airbop How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Jazz may be indigenous to America, but it's a worldwide experience. Artists from Europe, Africa, and Asia have adopted this art form and created music that's so pure and gimmick-free, it's as if they were born with it. One of these is Ada Rovatti, originally from Pavia, Italy. A pianist in her youth, Rovatti took a liking to jazz, blues, and funk and later chose the saxophone as her instrument of expression. Over the years, she's performed or recorded with Les Paul, Patrizia Scascitelli, Bob Mintzer, Renee Rosnes, Randy Brecker, and Mike Stern. In fact, Mintzer (of the Yellowjackets) and Brecker are guests on Airbop.

The title track opens with Rovatti on tenor, offering a high-energy lead on a song that's part straight jazz and part funk. Brecker and pianist Dave Kikoski highlight the second track, "Choose Your Life. "Shelter Island is a laid-back groove that features Brecker in the melody before Rovatti and her tenor get busy. This song has a strong, stroll-down-the-avenue feel.

The longest song on the album, and possibly the most beautiful, is the intimate ballad "What We Miss. At times romantic, at times moody, the pace is just slow enough that fringe jazz listeners who shy away from the complexities of faster riffs may enjoy it. Interestingly, the next track, "My Shining Hour, is the shortest song on the album. Rovatti takes to the soprano sax on this romantic offering. But don't be fooled. Just because she's playing the soprano on a ballad doesn't make this a cookie-cutter variety of smooth jazz.

As if the acoustic bass and variable drum play weren't enough, Rovatti takes her soprano through some paces most smoothies avoid—at least on their recordings. The funk and the tenor return on "2-Bros, a selection that is like the Yellowjackets meet Fattburger. Mintzer brings his bass clarinet to the ensemble, along with Brecker and percussionist Don Alias. In addition to Mintzer's unique sound, the percussive/bass-driven rhythm put this one high on the "repeat play list.

Rovatti composed all tracks except "My Shining Hour, which she arranged. All are long enough—a few of them breaching the seven-minute mark—to give the musicians plenty of room for improvisation. Throughout, drummer Ben Perowski and bassist Ed Howard get their licks in without dominating.

Although Airbop is only her third release as a bandleader, Rovatti is firmly anchored on the jazz scene. She has appeared as a guest on several albums, including Brecker's most recent Grammy winner, 34th 'n Lex, and Scascitelli's Close Up, as well as last year's Sax in the City, a compilation of selections by New York-based jazz musicians who happen to be women. This dazzling saxophonist has a lot of music in her. And the jazz world wouldn't be as enjoyable if she weren't part of it.

Track Listing: Airbop; Choose Your Life; Shelter Island; What We Miss; My Shining Hour; 2-Bros; One Dollar and 20 Cents; The Others; The Man on the Moon.

Personnel: Ada Rovatti: tenor and soprano saxophones; Dave Kikowski: piano; Ed Howard: accoustic bass; Ben Perowski: drums. Guests: Jill McCarron: piano (track 7); Randy Brecker: trumpet and flugelhorn (tracks 2,3,4.6); Bob Mintzer: bass clarinet (Track 6); Don Alias: percussion (tracks 3,6); Adam Rogers: guitar: tracks 1,3).

Record Label: Apria Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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