Jim Rotondi Quintet: Over Here

US-infused transeuropean swing and bop quintet including one-time Miles Davis tenorist Rick Margitza burns rubber from the first note


For his latest instalment on the Criss Cross label, Jim Rotondi collected a crew from the New York scene that, like himself, migrated to the age-old realm of opportunities, Europe. The trumpeter and flugelhornist works as a teacher at the conservatory in Vienna and lives in Clermont-Ferrand in France.

Scattered across the continent as Rotondi and his band mates may be, they bring an undeniable New York vibe to the proceedings. This translates as hardcore mainstream jazz, performed by experienced and exceptional musicians that burn rubber from the first note.

Rotondi’s quintet penned a series of strong compositions, dedicated in part to heroes of America’s indigenous art form. Voice is an elegant and moody ballad that celebrates Freddie Hubbard. Leemo succeeds at reaching meaningful simplicity, a concept that always attracted the legendary Lee Morgan, who was expert at writing relatively simple but challenging lines off the cuff.

Father John, written by tenorist on duty Rick Margitza, sparkles with impressions of modal Coltrane. As rock solid and vital as ever, Rotondi lifts the dramatic Moclieda to higher grounds. Moclieda, a composition of Rotondi’s pupil Jean-Baptiste Rousseaux, is stormy weather, wind force 10. Folks stay indoors and only Rotondi defies circumstances, flying like an eagle and, unperturbed, devouring prey.

Rotondi takes full advantage of the flugelhorn’s tender qualities, notably during Fain/Kahal’s I’ll Be Seeing You, a crisp rendition that also features Margitza’s searching tenor and Danny Grissett’s balanced but punchy piano playing. Serbian drummer Vladimir Kostadinovic is the European outsider to Rotondi’s American expatriate crew. He’s well-versed in the tradition that runs from Billy Higgins to Peter Washington and is a continually uplifting presence on Over Here.

Apparently, the move (coincidentally, The Move is an earlier title in the Rotondi discography) has done Rotondi good. Over Here finds the trumpeter and flugelhornist on top of his game.

I’ll Be Seeing You; Pete’s 32; I Concentrate On You; Jim’s Blues; Moclieda; Voice; Leemo; Father John; Happy Feet (52.25)
Rotondi (t, fh); Rick Margitza (ts); Danny Grissett (p); Joshua Ginsburg (b); Vladimir Kostadinovic (d). Udine, 10 May 2023.
Criss Cross 1417