Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Gabe Terracciano brings subtle fire to the jazz violin in a small-group context

Essential as it is in classical music and invaluable in such other genres as bluegrass and gypsy, the violin has a
Gabe Terracciano, bandleader-composer
long, honorable history in jazz, with enough practitioners over the past century that it has accommodated a wide range of styles. There's the proto-crooning of Joe Venuti, the florid exuberance of Stephane Grappelli, the tart, funky humor of Ray Nance, and so on.

Gabe Terracciano was a violinist new to me when I received "In Flight" (Red Piano Records) in the mail. His compositions display a personality as individual as his violin-playing. Six pieces make up this disc, generally focused on a  pianoless quartet: besides Terracciano, guitarist Adam Rogers,bassis Matt Pavolka, and drummer Matt Ferber. To bookend the date (Jan. 30, 2018), there are two extra players for the title tune and the fetching "Alfie's Lullaby." They are Dave Pietro, alto sax, and Mike Rodriguez, trumpet.

A soft-spoken player, generally, Terracciano stresses his lack of bluster with his matte tone, largely free of vibrato.  That quality, combined with his feeling for space between phrases in the ballad "When I'm in Your Arms Once More," makes him seem a bit like a violin version of early (i.e., still playing standards) Miles Davis. 

Guitarist Adam Rogers displays a similar personality, in "Way Off" taking a cue from the bandleader's introspective manner to exhibit fleetness in shadow. It's also worth noting in this track that the violinist sometimes kicks up his heels, applies some vibrato and dares to be flashy. He does this in a way that avoids being flatly self-contradictory.

He's a witty composer, as "Pundit" makes clear. It's deliberately glib, as if inviting debate and questioning while being assertive. The saxophonist makes one of two non-sextet appearances in this piece, working in sync with Terracciano.  Rogers, sometimes  mysterious though simpatico in accompaniment, is allowed to flourish in his solo here, seeming to inspire a little extra oomph from the violinist. The two are also extroverted in tandem in "Case in Point."

Listeners are warned to  be patient as the opening track, "In Flight," takes its time about taking off.  A languid violin intro leads to some trumpet-violin dialogue before the the moody violin becomes  airborne. There's a crowded outchorus that turns out to lead to an effective violin-dominated coda. Nothing is forced to happen too fast in "In Flight." Make sure your seat backs are up, your tray tables in fixed position, and take it easy. It will be a good flight.

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