Drummer Tommaso Moretti brings a joyful spirit and a taste of Italy to his quartet’s debut album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Drummer Tommaso Moretti brings a joyful spirit and a taste of Italy to his quartet’s debut album 

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click to enlarge Tommaso Moretti

Tommaso Moretti

Davide Cardea

Italian drummer and composer Tommaso Moretti settled here in 2013 after playing with Chicagoans such as Ernest Dawkins in his homeland, but he didn’t come across my radar until last year, when he appeared on the eponymous debut album of Bottle Tree—a smart, progressive R&B trio with multi-instrumentalist Ben Lamar Gay and singer A.M. Frison. He shows a different but equally satisfying side of his musicianship with his new album SemoComeSemo (Amalgam Music), a dynamic jazz-quartet recording of original compositions that deftly infuse sleek postbop with Italian folk traditions. Moretti’s music alternates between brisk hurtling movement and buoyant swing. Pianist Matt Piet underlines that sense of propulsion, adding hints of Monkish tartness and soul-jazz flavor and conveying melodic ebullience in tandem with the sounds of Gay’s joyful, bright-toned cornet in one of the strongest instances of pure jazz playing from both of them that I’ve experienced. Bassist Devin Foster deftly holds down the bottom, letting the drummer accelerate into giddy wildness on the spirited “Appocundade.” Many of the pieces, including the one tune the leader didn’t write—the bossa nova-kissed “Ma La Vita Continua” by film composer Nino Rota—add dollops of avuncular humor a la Italian Instabile Orchestra (which made an art of braiding Italian music with vanguard jazz). “The Cowboy Twist” pushes more explicitly toward pop music, using English lyrics and a puckish bridge. Given the combination of elements, one might think it would resemble a theme to a spaghetti western, but instead it evokes Sonny Rollins playing Johnny Mercer’s “I’m an Old Cowhand.”   v

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