This debut album from the Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet, Gettin’ It There, is such a pure expression of jazz that it acts as the proverbial sherbet between courses, a way to cleanse your palate before the next trend in contemporary jazz. I always get excited when I hear an ensemble, usually a trio or a quartet, return to the fundamentals and still find new places to go. I want to hear jazz as I first heard it thirty or forty years ago, Miles and Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and Art Pepper and Ben Webster and so many others just playing their hearts out. Gettin’ It There might mean gettin’ it back there, to that place in jazz that always matters.
Fabrizio Sciacca is a bassist, a strong and steady one who resists flash, even during a monstrous run on the fret. What’s remarkable about his bassist-as-leader turn here is that it comes, as I mentioned, as his debut. Here’s this young man from Italy who comes to settle in NYC in 2015 and now, for his first recording, he’s leading a group of seasoned vets that includes sax player Jed Levy, pianist Donald Vega and legendary drummer Billy Drummond. I’ve been discussing the bassist-as-leader dynamic for a while, but when happens when the roles are reversed?
Well, the best way to describe the Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet is finely tuned and perhaps egalitarian. This is synergy between four talented musicians, with everyone free to improvise and solo. But even the tangents are minimized–these gentlemen play together almost continuously. They also seem to elevate and inspire each other, and they’re always engaged with each other’s journey.
Of the four members of the Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet, I’m most intrigued with Drummond. His intricate choices, especially with the ride cymbals, are endlessly entertaining and yet, for one song (“A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square”) he’s very heavy-handed with brushes on the snare drum. I’m torn–is this a new idea worth exploring further, or is it merely a miscalculation in the studio? (More likely, I need to listen to more of Drummond’s style in other recordings.) If anything, this stiffer sound makes it exceptionally easy to follow the movement of Drummond’s hands. This isn’t an added texture in the background. It’s way out front.
That might just speak the outstanding sound quality extracted by sound engineer Greg Gibaldi. I’ll see what the rest of you think. Otherwise, this is one of those exquisite expressions of jazz, simple and modest but oh so right.