Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Carlo Nardozza Quintet @ Hopper, 10/04/2006

The Carlo Nardozza Quintet zoomed from my Unknown category to my Ones To Watch in 2006 list in a couple of weeks, thanks to their debut CD "Making Choices" and, especially, last night's performance. You still have two chances to catch their April Hopper residency, try to make it.

Carlo Nardozza and guitarist Melle Weijters jumped out to me as the stars of the show. I'm less taken with the rest of the band, but they're more than serviceable. German drummer Steffen Thormähle provided precise, broad-shouldered support, saxophonist Daniël Daemen shone on the suite's waltz section and his playing on the written sections showed that this wasn't a gig he took lightly.

Nardozza is a young Belgian trumpeter, a clear descendant of the Clifford Brown hard bop tradition. I know what you're thinking. Still, he plays with personality and uncommon facility, which is more obvious in concert than on the CD. He admitted to having been a little intimidate during that maiden studio session. We walked into the Hopper in the middle of the first set and only a few bars into Nardozza's blistering solo, I thought "Whoa, I didn't realise he was that good!"

Nardozza also has a knack for catchy lines and arrangements with a little twist, often dipping into his Italian heritage for a melody, rhythm or mood. The one standard they played got an interesting treatment, with the theme barely coalescing. The second set consisted of the unrecorded 5-movement "Dozzy Suite" that nimbly shifted between hard bop and mediterranean modes, dropping new thematic material on a dime. As the concert wore on, his soloing did seem a bit inflexible: very long and impressive lines spun quietly, with subtle shadings to give them character, inevitably building up to louder, but not brash, statements. Also, everything was pretty much mid-tempo. Even though there was a lot of variety in those mid-tempos, style-wise, it would have been refreshing to hear a few outright slow or fast tempos. These niggles aside, Nardozza, and the band in general, is very promising.

The quintet's wildcard is Dutchman Melle Weijters (pronounced weh-ters). He claims Jim Hall, Bill Frisell and Ben Monder as influences and plays in a fascinatingly instinctive way, with a skewered take on traditional jazz guitar. For example, comping chords jutted out at weird angles and could morph into noisy funk, solos floated disconnectedly or turned rock-ish, but all this without being too in-your-face or self-concious about it. Sometimes he's right inside with the rest of the band, sometimes he's somewhat outside and independent of it, and it works.