Simone Gubbiotti: #Underdogs

The former AC Milan footballer, turned guitar student of Jim Kelly, Sid Jacobs and Joe Diorio, deftly extends the lyrical Jim Hall tradition

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Deft and nimble, Simone Gubbiotti’s guitar work is as precise as needlework. On his all-original fourth album as a leader, he also shows his chops as a composer. He has a knack for strong, catchy melodies as well as complex, cerebral studies such as Overtime and the closing Rumors. A disciple of Jim Hall, he shares the American’s smooth legato and lyrical phrasing, as well as varied approach to rhythm.

The album kicks off with the Wes Montgomery-fuelled Injury Time – one of many titles referencing Gubbiotti’s stint as an AC Milan footballer (he retired from injury aged 24 and studied jazz guitar with Jim Kelly, Sid Jacobs and Joe Diorio). Gubbiotti played this in a more frenetic form a few years ago live with drummer Ari Hoenig and vibraphonist Mirko Pedrotti. Here it’s presented more compactly with a streamlined trio who subtly support the guitarist throughout the album, with Paolo Franciscone taking over the drum seat.

Franciscone ably fills large shoes, as Gubbiotti has played with stellar drummers such as Peter Erskine, Joe La Barbara and Paul Wertico of Pat Metheny’s band. Double bassist Davide Liberti offers sensitive interplay here and especially on the waltzing Questione Di Tempi and the polyrhythmic Unnecessary Roughness.

The album’s only misstep comes halfway through: The Day Before/Back In Training, where the trio is joined by vocalist Cantora. It’d be interesting to hear a separate project with this expressive singer, but the plodding eight-minute two-song medley breaks up the album’s flow. The second section does show another side of the guitarist’s palette – a darker, more electric tone with hints of Scofield and Frisell – and a contemplative bass solo before Cantora returns for a coda.

Energetic without being aggressive, Gubbiotti’s playing is always enjoyable, though some tunes slide by pleasantly without leaving much of an impression. The standouts include the tender Valentina and Deconstructing, where he gradually builds interest with a solo as sleek and stylish as a Prada suit.

Discography
Injury Time; Questione Di Tempi; 4-5; The Day Before/Back In Training; Unnecessary Roughness; Deconstructing; The Place I Live; Overtime; Valentina; Rumors (56.00)
Gubbiotti (g); Davide Liberti (b); Paolo Franciscone (d); with Cantora (v) on 4. Turin, Italy, June 2021.
Double Dimension Records DD20220201-1