Perhaps the most amazing transformation of cultural enlightenment in the last quarter century.
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz
If you had told me that it was possible to connect the musical dots between Puccini and arguably the greatest composer of our time in Billy Strayhorn, I would have probably died from the ensuing anger stroke. The stroke of musical genius that makes this connection possible is Dyad from the imaginative duo of Lou Caimano on alto saxophone and Eric Olsen on piano.
For those playing at home and perhaps spent music appreciation napping, I'll be brief. Puccini was considered the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi, his wheelhouse being the late 19th century romantic operas although like most artistic cynics he gravitated to the realist perspective which soon predominated Italian opera. So how do the musical dots connect with Billy Strayhorn? Melody...You do remember melody? Puccini's ornate and emotionally charged lyricism evoked a range of emotions from the intimate and introspective to the celebratory jubilation that transcends the human condition, no different than Strayhorn.
The ten Puccini compositions here are from such familiar and noteworthy works such as La Boheme and Tosca yet masterfully arranged into a modern jazz presentation that is far more than a simple "riff" on tunes that some of us only know from the animated cartoons we watched on Saturday morning as children. These works are skillful manipulation and transformation of timeless melodies into cross cultural presentations of layered texture and visionary daring that embraces melody whether reworked into the classic west-coast cool jazz vibe or a smoldering Latin groove. The harmonic movement of Olsen is a perfect counterpoint for the stirring lyrical impressionistic tour De force put on by Caimano.
Jazz critics will be uniformly scratching their heads on this one. Classical purists will cringe. A critics worst nightmare are consistently some of the most engaging and challenging pieces of music both on the cerebral and visceral levels, Dyad is no different.
Tracks: Musetta's Waltz; Ch'ella mi creda; Act I Overture; Che geldia manina; In quelle trine morbide; O mio babbino caro; Un bel di; E lucevan le stelle; Chi il bel sogno di Doretta; Nessun dorma.
Personnel: Lou Caimano: Alto Saxophone; Eric Olsen: piano.