stafford davis, award-winning writer and photographer

stafford davis

Giuseppe Deliso is an Italian guitar player who offers up a multidimensional approach to jazz on his first album of original material. As the chief architect and songwriter of Rebirth, Deliso has created a work that balances deft musicianship with subtle arrangements that, like the painting on the front cover, produces a colorful pastoral effect for his listener’s senses. Equally important are Deliso’s choice of musicians that support and help him achieve his creative vision. Pianist Vito Liturri, bassist Marco Boccia, saxophonist Vincenzo Antonicelli, drummer Lello Patruno, and cellist Davide Viterbo round out the ensemble. Each of these players contributes to the whole by quietly asserting themselves when called for, and more importantly, are well versed in the art of restraint and space in the jazz idiom. Not surprisingly, Rebirth has a strong European flare that is at times reminiscent of Manfred Eicher’s ethereal yet paradoxically heavy-handed production of his ECM artists. The Italian group comes close to the improvisational style of the ECM aesthetic, but is not quite experimental enough, instead preferring solid structures of melodic framework and cultivated improvisation.

The album opens with the aptly titled “Saturday Night Groove”. Patruno and Boccia start it with a simple groove that lays the foundation for Liturri and his funky Rhodes piano work. A slight hint of distortion on the Rhodes comes through as he accents his most edgy of chords against Boccia’s fretless bass work. The dichotomy of strong chording and bass lines set the stage for the guitar to make its entrance a minute into the piece. Refreshingly, Deliso has chosen to use a crisp guitar tone that accentuates the instrument’s idiosyncrasies along with the sound of his chording fingers and pick. This in stark contrast to the ubiquitous muted tones found in jazz guitar gives his craft a fresh angle in which to hear contemporary jazz compositions. Along the way Antonicelli matches Deliso’s melodies and both take a solo, however the most exhilarating part is when the rhythm section gets behind Liturri as he aggressively solo’s against their driving patterns.

Next is the beautiful track “Emotions”, where the listener is treated to some of the finest instrumental performances on Rebirth. Juxtaposed with “Saturday Night Groove” and its exciting pace, “Emotions” downshifts toward a moody and atmospheric work that conjures up images of a late night, downtown lounge. Also in shift are Deliso’s and Liturri’s switch to their acoustic instruments, which is an obvious choice to compliment the form of the song. Deliso takes a solo that recalls Pat Metheny-like runs and cadences, while Liturri’s opening solo is a gorgeous, dynamical performance that reflects the light and dark colors of his Bill Evans inspired playing. The tonal range and expert musicianship of “Emotions” make it unquestionably one of the strongest tracks on the album.

The title track boasts the most enduring and striking melody on Rebirth. Patruno’s drumming propels the song as Liturri and Deliso play the circular melody throughout the first half. The most salient feature of the piece is Antonicelli and his version of the theme through his soprano saxophone. His command of the instrument is apparent as he sometimes ventures beyond the boundaries of the theme with his own flourishes, yet always manages to come back to support the song.

Two songs on Rebirth stand out in a figurative and literal sense for the same reason. “Rebirth bass intro” and “Rebirth Ending” feature solo performances by Boccia and Viterbo respectively. Both emphasize the subtleties of their instrument with the blending of pitch that fretless instruments afford, but it is Viterbo’s interpretation on Deliso’s Rebirth theme that stands out. This cello piece closes the album and reminds the listener of the vast capabilities of the individual musicians and the timbre of their instruments by articulating the very theme that was most dominant in the album as a whole.

Overall, Rebirth is a testament to Giuseppe Deliso’s talents as a songwriter and his band. The musicianship exhibited by all the players on Rebirth is extraordinary, and speaks to the jazz audience in way that emphasizes their personalities through the music they play.

Review by Stafford Davis
Rating: ****4Stars (out of 5)

Stafford Davis is an award-winning writer and photographer. His essays short stories, and photographs have been published in everything from local city-wide journals to international books and online publications. Hailing from Denver, Stafford grew up listening to a wide variety of music and eventually started making his own when he was 11.