Charles Colizza Group
Hug the Devil
Montreal, Quebec -raised, NYC-based guitarist Charles Colizza makes his debut with a strong quintet that features the legendary Billy Drewes on soprano saxophone, Jake D’Ambra on tenor, Nick Panoutsos on double bass, and Lukas Akintaya on drums and percussion. Hug the Devil was recorded last December before the onset of the pandemic. Colizza is a recent recipient of the Oscar Peterson Jazz Scholarship Competition. Colizza is finishing his Masters at NYU studying with such prominent artists as Alan Broadbent, Alan Ferber, Peter Bernstein, and Wayne Krantz.
The album has seven compositions, six of which are Colizza originals and all of which are his arrangements. These were all done since his arrival in NYC in 2018 and span eclectic turf from modern jazz to post-bop and free jazz. These are intended to convey the range of emotions Colizza felt being immersed in a new city. The genesis of some his thought pattern is captured in the liners – “I can still see myself walking across Ground Zero and coming to a halt to contemplate the brand-new plaza and buildings emerging from what used to be ruins. I caught myself thinking about the name people had given to this godforsaken place. A place that holds many tears, suffering, and conflict. A Place which the name is supposed to ignite a spark that will transform a dimmed light into the vivid flame of a new hop…I could feel tension rising in my throat. I left.” A year later he was having a discussion with his bandmates over pizza when one said, “In Brazil, we say ‘If you’re stuck in hell, might as well hug the devil.” This serves as a reminder that nothing is perfect, and that mayhem is part of life. One should embrace the madness, not avoid it.
The opener “Ground Zero” has a haunting quality and melodic passages including some beautiful soprano work from Drewes. “Mmm…Yeah Sure” begins in spacey fashion but quickly adds up tempo passages that feature the leader as well as the two saxophonists, with Drewes making an extended spiraling statement before yielding to D’Ambra’s aggressive tenor while Colizza comps and the rhythm section percolates, leading into their own emphatic solos. ”Stiff Breeze’ takes us into spacey territory while the one cover, Cole Porter’s “What Is this Thing Called Love” is transformed into mostly a guitar workout, with the strains of the melody rearing up only occasionally in the first half before the horns ensue in improvisational fashion.
The animated “Line’s Celebration (Birthday Song) has the strongest solo statement from bassist Panoutous while the theme is one of the more engaging ones on the disc. Colizza here plays his notes rather sparingly with beautiful guitar tone as D’Ambra takes the outro. “Lemon Cake” also features a nice arrangement that opens with the saxes, and Colizza stating the theme in ensemble mode. Panoustous and Akintaya create a nice stir behind D’Ambra’s opening solo, which Drewes builds on, taking it to soaring heights. As throughout, Colizza gives plenty of space to his bandmates, comping behind them, creating textures, and taking his solos when called upon, which, in comparison to the horns, are rather economical. The title track serves as a bookend closer to the opening “Ground Zero” as if to depict a question and answer, or, from his story – first impression and lasting takeaway.
Surely there’s a range of emotions and textures here with some admirable melodic passages, that showcase Colizza’s skill as a composer and arranger. As a guitarist, he is solid band member, not a dominant soloist. To his credit, most of the time, the music remains unpredictable and nicely bridges both fusion and contemporary jazz.
- Jim Hynes