“Out we jumped in the warm, mad night, hearing a wild tenor man’s bawling horns across the way going, ee-yah(ph), ee-ya, and hands clapping to the beat and folks yelling go, go, go. And far from escorting the girls into the place, Dean Moriarty was already racing across the street with his huge bandit’s thumb in the air yelling, blow, man, blow.” (Jack Kerouac – “On the Road”)
Bebop in its purest form is an acquired taste. It’s frenetic, disjointed, and difficult to grasp onto. Bebop reflected the post World War Two world of junkies, pimps, hookers, conmen, drug dealers, low-life hustlers, gangsters, writers, and poets prowling the night looking for action. The nightclubs were where the well-heeled gentry rubbed elbows with the underbelly of society having only one thing in common – listening to Bebop enveloped in a frenzied, sweaty, underworld atmosphere. In other words, “Slumming it.”
Andrea Gomellini’s “The Gift” is a well-crafted segue into Bebop. He masterfully nudges the neophyte along into listening to classic Bebop in subtle stages without realizing they were eased into the maelstrom from which there is no escape.
As far as Gomellini’s guitar work goes, he’s got his licks down using a hybrid style of a pick and fingerpicking – that is the distinctive signature style that sets him apart from most contemporary Jazz guitarists.
His style is a reflection of his Blues mentor’s influence, one of the best and most knowledgeable people, Stefan Grossman. Grossman turned Gomellini on to the pioneers of the Jazz guitar, Lonnie Johnson and Eddy Lang as well as authentic Blues artists.
Grossman was a student of legendary Bluesman steeped in the Gospel tradition, Reverend Gary Davis, and a bit of that influence is evidenced in Gomellini’s work.
Listening further into Gomellini’s guitar work, I picked out various people that influenced his present style from Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete to Ry Cooder. Gomellini put all of those elements together into a distinct style all his own – a well-seasoned Bebop jambalaya with a novel flare.
“Hidden Treasure,” the first track on the album, you can hear Gomellini’s finger sliding across the bass string, which was somewhat disconcerting, but by the time he adjusted things, it seemed as if Gomellini had done it purposefully to get my attention. Instead of being a distraction, it fell into place with the rest of the tune – I thought that was cool that he didn’t shoot for another take and is not that much of a perfectionist.
On the track, “J.&G.” Gomellini kicks out the jams and gets into some righteous, frenetic Bebop. “J.&G.” is a ride in the maelstrom.
On the track “No.1,” Gomellini breaks with tradition and introduces a Fusion flare pushing the amplifier into overdrive. I was reminded of Robbin Ford’s work with Miles Davis.
However, an album is only as good as the personnel producing the album and the sidemen holding down the session.
Simone Alessandrini, on alto sax kept coming up with articulate solos and seamless solo transitions with Gomellini.
Danilo Blaiotta’s piano work floated in and out of every piece – effortlessly exploring the keyboard.
Jacopo Ferrazza did what a journeyman Jazz bass player does, hold things together, and occasionally pop out above the other players to do an excellent solo and fade back into the rhythm lines.
Valerio Vantaggio’s drums were impeccable – holding down the rhythm in a conversational style and tossing in accents punctuating lead lines.
Overall, “The Gift” has all the right ingredients, and in my opinion, a fine piece of work.