Monday, April 23, 2018

Salvo Losappio's Long Story Short

Be-bop was my entry point into jazz so many years ago. I was thrilled with its freedom, its ability to set up beautiful themes and then deconstruct them in each and every round. I was in awe of musicians who could stand on a stage and go places no one else had ever been before, and yet every step taken was logical and familiar. For years that was the only type of jazz I listened to, and my first jazz albums were all primers to the art form--Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Art Pepper, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Archie Shepp and many others, the wilder the better. Not chaotic, mind you, but wild and untamed.

Salvo Losappio's new album, Long Story Short, takes me back to those early days of my musical education--mostly because I've simultaneously broadened and smoothed out my comfort zone over the last few years. Losappio's a tenor sax player who was born in the south of Italy in 1989, the same era where I was first introduced to my be-bop heroes. He's a kid, I guess, but from the way he plays he has a very old soul, one that ripened in the late fifties and early sixties. I know that describes a lot of young emerging talent in contemporary jazz, but there's a difference with Losappio. He means it down to the very depths of his being, or at least he sounds like it. This mix of standards and originals is real to the bone.

Losappio and the others in his quartet--pianist Sacha Perry, bassist Ari Roland and drummer Phil Stewart--play with that devil-may-care attitude you hear in real be-bop, that sense that every moment exists in a tidy structure and yet the spaces between the mileposts are prone to spontaneous combustion. This is jazz for darkened stages, where the night is getting long but no one dares to go home because they might miss something, a certain feeling that smells like cigarettes and napkins soaked with spilled cocktails and someone's about to set the whole mess of fire right at the edge of the stage. While Losappio has a deliberately quick and clipped delivery on his horn and runs scales like a madman, he is generous with his fellow musicians and allows them plenty of space to demonstrate that they can play anywhere, anytime. That adds to the sense of unpredictability.

There's not a lot of specifics to dig into with pure be-bop like this. It's about feeling and where you wind up emotionally and intellectually at the end of the song. I will point out Ari Roland's fondness for the bow and how he can remind me, in fleeting moments, of Ray Brown. But other than that, this is where you detach from the world and soak yourself in a sound that will energize you from head to toe if you have an open mind.

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