Oltremare Quartet – Uncommon Nonsense
(Babel BDV12107, CD Review by Chris Parker)
Although first impressions of the music made by the Oltremare Quartet might bring Iain Ballamy’s wistful but deceptively robust lyricism to mind, it is also easy to identify another (acknowledged) influence on bassist/leader Andrea Di Biase’s thoughtful, gently insinuating compositional style: Kenny Wheeler.
Saxophonist Michael Chillingworth moves unfussily between the earnest, slightly plaintive approach demanded by the album’s more restrained fare and the fiery pep appropriate to its livelier moments (a particular highlight pianist Antonio Zambrini’s driving tumultuous “Chanson”, and the rhythm section (completed by ubiquitous drummer Jon Scott) is also adaptable and skilful enough to purr quietly through the contemplative moments but rattle and roll under, for instance, the scalding piano solos of more rumbustious pieces such as “Even Shorter”.
Zambrini, indeed, irresistibly draws the ear to both his boisterous, often grandiloquent up-tempo runs and his restrained musings on more temperate compositions, but overall it is the quality and variety of Di Biase’s writing and the uncontrived versatility of the quartet – sweet-sounding and punchily muscular as required – that impresses about this classy, enjoyable album.