Federico Chiarofonte: Underbrush

Sensitive and swinging Roman date dispels any lingering suspicion that drummers can't lead and write effectively for piano trio

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Beautifully recorded, crisply driven and – above all – thoughtful and elegant music from a drummer-led contemporary Italian trio who were new to me, Underbrush makes for just over half an hour of most pleasing, freshly turned modernist piano-trio jazz.

I say “piano-trio jazz” but it should be noted that all the pieces were written by drummer and leader Chiarofonte. Sleeve commentator Flavio Caprera makes the point that “It’s been a long time since being a drummer, a leader and above all a composer is no longer taboo.” Indeed: think only of Elvin Jones or Joe Chambers’ Blue Note album Mirrors from 1998, where the drummer and leader composed all but two of the nine diversely characterful tracks.

The music here compels attention from first note to last. There’s plenty of finger-clicking swing on the bouncing, medium-clip Raja Clavat but also subtle shifts in accent, attack and inflection. And it’s just such a mix of propulsion and subtlety which marks the lyrically aware Chiarofonte as both drummer and composer.

Whether flowing strongly (Upas) or part-restrained and pensive (Mayas) the music can feature welcome and well-handled shifts in pulse, phrase length and dynamics, set within an overall context of post-Evans lyricism and drive. Hear pianist Solimene come on strong on Porto Copo and Lanius Collurio or relish the resonant depth of tone in double-bassist Binzios’s pizzicato figures throughout the intriguingly titled Swapnadosha.

Interaction between the trio members is exemplary and the more one listens, the more one appreciates what musical, even melodic strengths distinguish the ever-listening Chiarofonte’s essentially painterly and poetic – yet also adroitly muscular – approach. An excellent release.

Discography
Porto Cupo; Speecher’s Fight Circle; Upas; Swapnadosha; Raja Clavata; Erooign; Lanius Collurio; Mayas (34.33)
Chiarofonte (d); Vittorio Solimene (p); Alessandro Bintzios (b). Rome, c. 2023
Gleam Records AM 7027