Claudio Ottaviano Quartet: “Aurora” – an engaging, melodic and balanced jazz project

A Sicilian native now based in Milan, Claudio Ottaviano is an Italian double bass player and composer. Claudio has also performed with Renzo Arbore as well as with Sugarpie and the Candymen. He released his debut album, “Notturno” with Tino Tracanna and Michele Franzini in 2013.

Claudio has now released his second album, “Aurora”, as the band leader of the Claudio Ottaviano Quartet. I have been listening to the recording over and over again since receiving it. It is splendid example of four sensitive musicians –  Antonio Zambrini: piano, Tino Tracanna: saxes, Roberto Paglieri: drums and Claudio Ottaviano: double bass – who listen and engage in articulate musical conversation. They all know how to take a tune and stretch it to almost the breaking point (both harmonically and rhythmically), and then bring it back to a satisfying resolution.

Claudio Ottaviano
Claudio Ottaviano

The 10 tracks on “Aurora” represent a laidback, meditative, soulful and a wonderful combination of musicians entirely comfortable in their craft. To be honest, I often find jazz bassists who have their own albums, overwhelm the music with what is primarily a rhythm instrument. This is one of the few albums I’ve heard where the upright bass actually sounds musical and is even used in an almost melodious position in some instances, by Claudio Ottaviano, to great effect.

The set is quiet but energetic, while Ottaviano’s playing is melodic, and not just rhythmic or harmonic support. The delicate washes of Tino Tracanna’s saxophone colors over the piano pastel sketches by Antonio Zambrini can perfectly settle into background music or be heard as something more challenging, depending on your mood. The musical dialogue of bass, sax and piano countermelodies are sustained and woven together by a lattice of delightful tempos from Roberto Paglieri’s drum kit.

This album is magical and addictive. With repeated listening I believe the Claudio Ottaviano Quartet has come up with something very special here, an accessible mood album that reveals hidden depths with repeated listening. There are some nice originals, the gorgeous opener, “Modigliani”, the slow melodic “Nello”, the mysterious “Cabaret Noir” and the lovely tonal poem, “Pavoni”. There are no wasted tracks here. It’s a complete and satisfying journey.

“Aurora” is an engaging, melodic and balanced jazz project. The Claudio Ottaviano Quartet is a welcome break from much of the atonal schizophrenic jazz works that have come out in recent years. The group has a very clean, detailed and cohesive sound that makes you want to play it through many times over. Its simple structures, draw you in, as the emphasis can be more properly thought of as a focus on harmonies, and in this sense, “Aurora” is a very fine album indeed.

If none of this makes sense, just give it a listen. It’s well worth your time.

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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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