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Aldo Romano

In the recorded interview that punctuates the second CD of Intervista, Aldo Romano's latest album, the drummer gives this answer to a question from Jazz Magazine Editor Philippe Carles on the choice of tuned he recorded: "I don't make records to play the drums, I make records firstly so I can express music; my approach is not only that of a drummer, it's the approach of a composer, at least I hope so". And elsewhere in the conversation, the self-styled "downtown Paris and Italian" drummer adds this about his motivation to write and record: "... the deciding factor for me is meeting up with a musician, otherwise the music remains vague. It's through someone else that I can express the music I'm writing".

Aldo Romano has followed that path since the beginning of the 60s. Born into a family of Italian immigrants (in Belluno, on January 16th, 1941), by the end of the 50s he was playing electric guitar at the Bidule, a club in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
From time to time he also wielded his drumsticks, replacing the regular drummer from Maxim Saury's "New Orleans Revival" band, which used to play next door, at the Caveau de la Huchette club. Not far from there, trumpeter Donald Byrd was appearing with Bobby Jaspar on tenor, and drummer Arthur Taylor. Aldo heard the sound through the air-shaft in the street, and from that moment on he was electrified: "That was the first time in my life that I heard modern jazz; the first time I heard Art Taylor, and then Kenny Clarke after that, I said to myself, I have to play the drums, I can't do anything but play the drums. For me it was an extraordinary revelation, and then later it was much more than that, more than a passion, it was a commitment".
At the Chat Qui Pêche Club, and at the Caméléon, Romano accompanied visiting American soloists: Jackie McLean, Bud Powell, Lucky Thompson, J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton, Woody Shaw and Nathan Davis, to name but a few, all hired him during their stay in Paris. Alongside them onstage, the budding drummer had a daily lesson in the syntax and grammar of bebop. While this was going on, he also made a few forays into the world of the up and coming jazz explorers, the "free music" exponents such as Don Cherry and Gato Barbieri, Frank Wright and Bobby Few, Michel Portal, Barney Wilen, François Tusques, Jean-Louis Chautemps, Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd and Enrico Rava, etc... During the autumn of 1969 he was even, for a time, associated with a young pianist whose merits were beginning to be vaunted here and there: Keith Jarrett.
In the 70s, particularly during his tenure at the Riverbop Club with the groups Total Issue and Pork Pie, among others, Aldo experimented with the new genres that came out of the fashionable fusion of jazz and rock. His main associates at the time were François Jeanneau, Jean-François Jenny-Clark ("my alter ego, my favorite bassist and an indispensable companion"), Michel Graillier, Henri Texier, Charlie Mariano, Philip Catherine, Jasper Van't Hof. At the end of that decade, the drummer made his first records under his own name, for the independent label Owl. These were also recordings born out of various encounters, "a dialogue in complete freedom", first with Claude Barthélémy (Il Piacere, 1978), and then Bob Malach, Didier Lockwood and Jasper Van't Hof (Night Diary, 1980), Philip Catherine, Benoît Wideman and Jean-Pierre Fouquey (Alma Latina, 1983). Not to mention his 1980/82 association with a certain young Michel Petrucciani, a pianist whom he'd discovered on tour in the South of France, and who had so impressed him that he'd immediately introduced him to Jean-Jacques Pussiau, the producer of Owl Records. Aldo was subjugated by "Petru" and recorded two albums with him. The rest, as they say, is history...
Later, in the mid-80s, after composing a few songs for Claude Nougaro, and playing drums for a while behind Chet Baker or René Urtreger, Aldo formed his own remarkable "Italian Quartet", with Paolo Fresu, Franco D'Andrea and Furio Di Castri. With this group he recorded the sumptuous To Be Ornette To Be and Water Dreams (for Owl) and, for Verve, Non Dimenticar - in which some Italian popular songs are revisited with tender nostalgia - and his previous opus, Prosodie. More recently, for Label Bleu Records, Aldo Took another of his current groups into the studio, the amazingly refreshing band Palatino, with Glenn Ferris and Paolo Fresu.
Intervista is a record by Aldo's latest ensemble, which is currently blowing the evenings away at the Duc Des Lombards Club in the heart of Paris. Apart from the extraordinary Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson, the group includes two highly-talented newcomers, the Italian saxophonist Stefano Di Battista (already in evidence on the Prosodie album, and a regular members of the ONJ led by Laurent Cugny), and also the young Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras. Two musicians with great class, both of whom play with enormous heart. For them, Aldo composed and arranged the thirteen magnificent tunes that make up this new album, and make it as compact, full and dense as an egg.
It's an album in which one can travel from one climate to another with the greatest of ease. There are Latin-American tunes transcended by the delicate chords and pure sound of Nelson Veras - "Saidas e bandeiras", "Pelourinho", "Via de la Penna" - as well as an Italian classical aria, freely revisited - Verdi's "Va Pensiero, sull'ali Dorate", taken from Nabucco and themes with a clearly jazzier connotation in the Coleman vein - "Gush!!", "Patrimony", "Poet of the Hash" - in which Di Battista, a lyrical and warm player, expresses his (strong) talents. Ballads and blues à l'italienne, there's nothing missing in this beautifully conceived album, produced and performed by Aldo Romano, perhaps one of the finest he's ever recorded. The interview with Philippe Carles that accompanies the music, during which Aldo recalls memories of the different periods in his career as a musician in the Paris clubs, is a major contribution to the understanding of those who wish to learn more of the artist, the joys and hopes of the most Italian jazz musician in Paris.

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