Music Review: Movement, Gerardo Frisina (Schema Records, 2014)

Latin influenced jazz had its beginnings in the 1940’s and was later popularized by Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria with his recording of “Afro Blue” in 1959. Soon after, Latin Jazz blossomed, attracting a caravan of masters recording hundreds of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian-influenced standards.

One of the best collections of these is the Blue Bossa collection from Blue Note Records (1992) featuring greats like Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, and Kenny Dorham. Incidentally, Mobley’s “Ricado Bossa Nova” from that collection is one of my all-time favourite Blue Note recordings. frisina movement

It is squarely in this tradition that Italian jazz composer and producer Gerardo Frisina has built his repertoire. His latest release, Movement, remains grounded in Latin Jazz while incorporating modern elements of jazz dance and soul jazz music. He achieves this with well-chosen vocal, electric piano, and organ accompaniment. Frisina also blends Afrobeat influences in tracks like “Eastern Vibrations – Shout It” with its fat brass section. geradofrisinajointhedance

I was so taken with the authenticity and musicianship on Movement, that I explored Frisina’s back catalog and was impressed even more deeply with his 2010 release, Join the Dance (Schema Records). More classic and straight-ahead than Movement’s modernized sound, Join the Dance evokes the masters that embraced this music. “Another Waltz,” features the vibes of Pasquale Bardaro and a steady groove that could have come off of a circa 1970 Bobby Hutcherson album. “Mille E Una Notte” is a easy-going musical sojourn through the Arabian peninsula, reminiscent of Pharaoh Sanders.

With both of these albums and his earlier work, Frisina’s body of work is a faithful extension to a tradition dating back more than five decades. He brings a freshness to the genre, not through gimmickry but rather through great composition and musicianship. In this sense, Frisina is not a mere preservationist. He is a progressive, who conserves the essence of what makes this music great, while allowing it to change and resonate with today’s tastes.