On today's music scene, many people devote themselves to paying tribute to important artists-a truly noble aim. However, the point of a tribute undoubtedly lies in the idea, in the creative act that supports this process. A tribute is meaningful if it moves against the indifference and the tendency toward celebration that is rampant today, if it focuses on an artist's work, increasing the possibilities of knowledge and nurturing opportunities to pursue new paths. The work of Helga Plankensteiner and her collaborators has often turned to the history of jazz, to unveil new reading routes and develop original perspectives. The already well-established BARIONDA, involving four baritone saxes and drums, is a cheerful example of paying homage to artists such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan and Pepper Adams.
The current work, JELLY ROLL PLAYS MORTON, explores one of the legendary figures of the origins of Jazz with splendid sensitivity - Ferdinand Jelly Roll Morton, pianist, composer, leader, singer – the very person who had 'Originator of jazz-stomp-swing' printed on his business card. Which might even contain a grain of truth if it did not clash with the fact that the creative musical process was a collective one, of a musical community that lived and worked mainly in New Orleans. However, it is undeniable that Morton was the first true, great composer of jazz. Songs such as 'King Porter Stomp', 'Wolverine Blues', 'Wild Man Blues', 'Kansas City Stomp' and 'The Pearl' which originated about a hundred years ago, when the pianist was in his thirties or so, are now jazz classics and have had interpretations by so many leading figures, including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Gil Evans and Benny Goodman.With her Jelly Roll Quintet, Plankensteiner tackles Morton's splendid legacy with an attitude that on a first listen appears joyful, colorful, rich in moods and dynamics, with a few sprinklings of funk amid the rhythms of early 20th-century New Orleans, which is already a lot. But then, looking at this work more closely, other elements that give the album its special quality emerge. First of all, it is the instrumental ensemble: three woodwinds with a grave timbre such as the leader's baritone sax, Achille Succi's bass clarinet and Glauco Benedetti's tuba offer an unprecedented glimpse of Morton's musical kaleidoscope, which traditionally aligned the cornet, clarinet and trombone. This gives the music a pastose timbre, yet at the same time it is transparent and rich in nuances and subtleties, performed in a truly admirable interplay that only live recordings, albeit recorded in the studio, can render. The three personalities, well-established on today's Italian and European jazz stages, also stand out in terms of individual performance, which can safely be extended to the other two members of the quintet, pianist Michael Lösch and drummer Marco Soldà. Lösch is responsible for most of the arrangements, but that's not all: it was from his reading of the volume 'Mister Jelly Roll - The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and ‹Inventor of Jazz›', a work by the great ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, that Plankensteiner's idea, the decision to tackle that musical treasure, came about. JELLY ROLL PLAYS MORTON deserves careful listening; it is a work where reflection on an important glimpse of African American musical history is fruitfully mixed with the moods of today, where the exquisite interventions of individuals reveal the innovative, innate and stainless character of Morton's music. We would like to point out a small gem in this musical treasure chest: the three and a half minutes of 'Queen of Spades' (a slow march version of 'Black Bottom Stomp') in Lösch's delightful arrangement, dilated in melodic lines. We hope this is the first chapter of a fruitful tale to be continued.