Andre Ferreri Quintetto
A first glance at the name and title would suggest a European group but New York born, Charlotte, NC-based guitarist Andre Ferreri and his quintet are a stateside group. Ferreri has worked in an array of genres including frequent stints with the Charlotte Symphony. For years he led the contemporary jazz unit Airstream and has had his compositions featured in commercials, films, and television. He also co-founded this label, Laser Records. But his purpose in using the Italian name for quintet was because he wanted to pay homage to both his heritage and time spent in Italy while also feeling that the project has a Euro-Italian feel. That may be true for some of the selections but there is plenty here that swings in the fashion of straight-ahead jazz as we know it, especially “Uptown Swing.” This is mostly, a rollicking, vibrant session.
Joining Ferreri are his frequent collaborator tenorist Ziad Rabie, acoustic bassist Anna Stadlman, and pianists, Mark Stallings, Philip Howe, and Sean Higgins. Drummer Kobie Watkins is new to his circle of players but comes with a legacy that includes Kurt Elling, Arturo Sandoval, and Sonny Rollins. The album was recorded over three different date in January of this year with a different pianist on each of the three days. Trumpeter Brad Wilcox joins on perhaps the most European-oriented tune, “Avia Pervia.” The album covers plenty of ground with strains of traditional jazz, bebop, swing, and touches big band-like ensemble work and blues. Ferreri penned tributes to his wife and guitarist Pat Martino in his eleven originals.
The album begins with the bebop-styled, rapid run filled “Mighty Fine” with Higgins on piano. Immediately the leader takes the reins with brisk picking as Higgins comps steadily. Rabie adds to the intensity with his aggressive solo as the rhythm section pushes until each of them get their own chance to step forward. Stallings is the pianist for the ballad “Seasons” as he and Ferreri echo each other’s chords beautifully. Rabie plays with deep bluesy conviction in his solo. As mentioned, “Uptown Swing” is a clear highlight with Stallings moving to B3 and setting up an infectious groove in the spirit of the best vintage soul-jazz. The title track does indeed bear some Euro sensibilities, moving from contemplative to more spirted tones and some terrific trap work from Watkins and sparkling piano from Stallings.
“Avia Pervia” has a challenging start and stop rhythm pattern and plenty of Ferreri’s dazzling clean picking. Howe is the pianist here and takes his spirted flight as does Rabie before Watkins enters with a drum break that settles down an explosive sequence. “We Were All Children” is a melodic ballad, featuring Stallings’ elegant turn at the keys and more soulful statements from Rabie. Ferreri, while prominent is not dominant, sharing solo opportunities quite equitably with his bandmates throughout. “Good Bones” is a mid-tempo tune, filled with rhythm changes and spirited turns while “On the Move,” a straight-ahead cooker, lives up to its title and has perhaps Ferreri’s strongest picking of any tune. Higgins has the unenviable task of following but holds his own quite well.
Two more reflective tunes follow – “Making Major Changes” and “Making Minor Changes.” Higgins is the pianist on the former and Howe on the latter, both tunes marked by strong ensemble work and gorgeous harmonics. Ferreri concludes tenderly with an ode to wife in “Love Letter to Mary.”
So, don’t be dissuaded by the title into thinking this is an inaccessible jazz record. Quite the opposite holds. It’s a lively, uplifting and free flowing session that has all the elements you’d want in a highly engaged listen.