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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Leonardo La Peruta Quartet - The Emotional Touch

Leonardo La Peruta Quartet - The Emotional Touch
2011, Leona Music

Leonardo La Peruta has made a name for himself as one of the most sought after progressive jazz saxophone players in Europe.  His Leonardo la Peruta Quartet traverses the styles and sounds of the 1960’s and 1970’s, from bebop to hard bop to jazz fusion.  The Leonardo La Peruta Quartet’s The Emotional Touch sounds like it could have been recorded by Miles Davis’ band in a series of outtake sessions.

The Emotional Touch opens with "Disparate In Blue", a progressive jazz jam that recalls John Coltrane's work with Miles Davis.  La Peruta shows an affinity for lightning fast runs and trills on saxophone; achieving technical perfection but occasionally over-filling the sonic space.  La Peruta's band mates match him step-by-step, with the piano work standing out as exceptional.  "Mark Makes Miles" is spritely and alive, progressive in an angular style that is more about action than musical progression.  The pianist once again steals the show with grandiose, neo-classical breakdowns amidst jazz runs.  "Very Vain Vagary" continues the alliterative naming convention of the album in an overly busy, piano-driven number.  The showy quality to this number declaims a tendency to be more about what individual members of the quartet can do than what they can play.

"No Chance, No Way" is a mellow, yet lively number.  La Peruta's saxophone dances over a rhythmic mellotron and the polyrhythmic brilliance of bass and percussion.  La Peruta and band take a more thoughtful approach here, and it shows in the quality of their interplay.  "Sky Smart Sunrise" features a diffuse, lyric style in La Peruta's saxophone that is a welcome change of pace.  The piano and rhythm section work magic underneath.  This number borders on overly busy at times, but is always pulled back before losing itself in a cacophony of notes. 

The absolute highlight of the album is in the brilliant sense of expectation woven through "Red Sur".  The Leonardo La Peruta Quartet is hitting on all eight cylinders here, with ever solo spot on, and each transition like magic.  The band takes one more shot at the triple word score with "Nap New Night", a lyric and mellow jazz number that fits in well with the general cadence of the album, but may pass without significant notice for some listeners.  "Are We Dancing?" is messy and unfocused.  La Peruta et. al. get major points for exuberance here, but that energy gets the best of them, with instruments intruding on one another at regular intervals.  The recovery on "She Could Smile" is grand.  The song is an intriguing blend of light and dark; happiness and contemplation.  Uncertainty plays at the edges of a buoyant and classy number; an intriguing experience for the listener.  "Blues Andaluz" would be a solid closer, if not for the inclusion of an alternative take of "Red Sur".  This latter perhaps a touch of the zest of the original, but only if you listen to them side by side.

Leonardo La Peruta continues the great jazz traditions of the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, where artists pushed one another and the bounds of jazz itself, creating ever more progression and derivation in the art form.  Elements of bop, hard bop and jazz fusion can be found throughout The Emotional Touch, with La Peruta changing styles sometimes without notice.  La Peruta's quartet can be as professional as they come, although there are times on The Emotional Touch when exuberance overcomes form.  It seems likely that this is a stylistic/artistic choice rather than by accident, but these moments tend to create some serious cognitive dissonance for the listener at home.  Nevertheless, there's a lot here to like.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about the Leonardo La Peruta Quartet at   The Emotional Touch is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

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