Album reviews

Guido Spannocchi – ‘Perihelion’

Guido Spannocchi – Perihelion  
(Audioguido Records. Album review by Adrian Pallant)

Cool as you like, Viennese alto saxophonist Guido Spannocchi’s Perihelion (a title referencing the position in the orbit of a planet where it’s nearest to the sun) has ‘summer’ written all over it!

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London-based Spannocchi boasts a vibrant, big-name sextet for this latest album release – trumpeter Jay Phelps, tenorist Sylvie Leys, pianist Robert Mitchell, double bassist Michelangelo Scandroolio and drummer Tristan Banks – who collectively put the ‘wow’ into his ebullient collection of nine original numbers. To rummage through the altoist’s Bandcamp catalogue is fascinating, his previous recordings featuring names such as Tony Kofi and Jure Pukl; and his diverse creations (including a hymn or two) reveal an inquiring and exploratory musical mind. In Perihelion, however, he presents a straight-ahead sequence with a metaphorical sparkle in its eye; and Spannocchi, himself, has a distinctive embouchure characterised by an endearing, even unusual, rapid vibrato.

The foot-tapping jive of Uphill Blues offers an instant mood indicator for the album, Phelps and Spannocchi fronting its perky, lead melody and improvisations, while Sylvie Leys’ almost throwaway, casual tenor is a dream. Robert Mitchell is ideally partnered with the rhythm section of Scandroolio and Banks, his Wurlitzer intonation switching from the percussive soloing of this track to the chordal elegance of Key Drop, the latter producing a raft of beautiful solos. In swaggering Cafezinho, Phelps’ quickfire extemporisations (not unlike Freddie Hubbard’s) rise out of its grooving, pin-sharp horn arrangements; and the signature melody of Strutting in Six (listen for that quaint alto vibrato) sails blithely across Mitchell’s glistening, soulful wash.

In jazz terms, Spannocchi’s numbers can be tantalisingly succinct – often just three to four minutes in duration – yet one never feels shortchanged, the feel-good perpetuated throughout the album. Das Ist Die Frage (That is the question) suggests all the balmy, romantic smoothness of a Sade hit, until Scandrooli’s bass drives it towards shrill sax exchanges and crunchy, ‘70s-style Wurlitzer invention. The simplicity of unison horns can be so effective, and is exemplified in A Walk in Yoyogi Park (Tokyo’s go-to hub for artists, performers and musicians – and often a jazz inspiration). It’s a delightfully floaty number with many facets, said to pay homage to Délibes’ ‘The Flower Duet’; and Leys’ sumptuous, misty tenor lines, in particular, bask in this spacious environment.

Unashamedly boppy 187 South is carried on Banks’ slouchy but solid rhythm, its hint of US TV theme amplified by agile Wurlitzer and another strong, unison sax theme. Midweek 3:30am Club Theme, though sonically a tad incongruous within the overall shape of the album, does indeed intimate the weary emptiness following an after-hours basement gig, emphasised by Mitchell’s upright piano timbre. A swooning, alternative take of Das Ist Die Frage shares something of that ambience, too, with Phelps’ tone tangibly softer; but neon-glowing Night Time in Soho displays again the overriding joy of this recording as glissando-inflected horn phrases accentuate its unwavering confidence.

Guido Spannocchi’s cover art doesn’t give much (anything) away. But behind the orange, Perihelion’s satisfying, uplifting jazz blazes brightly.

LINKS: Perihelion at Audioguido Records
Guido Spannocchi at Bandcamp

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