In the shadow of Brexit, Scottish Jazz Space takes much pleasure in sharing another SJS review of an ‘overseas’ band. This time the debut album from exciting Italian band, the Marco Rottoli Trio.

Marco Rottoli Trio – New Year’s Eve

(AMP Music & Records, 2020)

A new signing to independent Oslo-based label AMP Music & Records AS is always of interest, the meaning behind the label’s name being a clue. On their website AMP explain their name is an acronym of Ambitious Mindful Projects and they advise they are interested in supporting new bands. It thus makes good sense that they have signed the Marco Rottoli Trio, an Italy-based piano trio with Marco Rottoli on double bass, Simone Daclon on piano and Pasquale Fiore on drums. Each musician has extensive experience playing in a variety of bands with many of Italy’s finest jazz musicians.

Leader Rottoli has played professionally since the early 2010s as a well-regarded side-man in numerous outfits. He has toured extensively in Europe (though not as yet to the UK, I understand) with the likes of Flat Out Combo, Out of Rags Trio, RCT (Reality Control Test) and the Honolulu Orchestra amongst many others. His two accomplished bandmates Daclon and Fiore are similarly productive and sought-after.

So although he is to be heard on numerous albums over the last decade or so, this is Rottoli’s debut album as leader, a role he is very obviously ready for. He opts to record his piano trio for this rather than his eponymous septet or sax trio, perhaps as the three have collaborated on many occasions before as is evidenced on this album by the ease with which they interact.

New Year’s Eve consists of eight tunes, three of which are covers, the remaining five composed by Rottoli. It is a testament to his compositional skill that his own tunes fit so well with the older pieces and to his arranging skill that the covers feel so fresh. Indeed, a highlight of the album is penultimate track, Thelonious Monk’s Bye-Ya which the band clearly relish playing and swings like billy-o.

The album opens with Rottoli’s initially slightly portentous and ultimately really lovely Acacia and is followed by the title track, an even more dramatic and rich piece with playful harmonising, attractive melody and a lush ending. Rottoli allows himself some prominent soloing, which he realizes with confidence and grace.

Next up is the Fat Ballard/ Charles Henderson/ Tom Waring So Beats My Heart For You, previously known to this writer from Tony Bennett’s recording of yore. This version is almost as perky as Bennett’s, Rottoli’s bass and Daclon’s piano playing tag team with the melodic line and with an ending best characterised as snazzy.

Fourth track Snowball injects a little Latin rhythm into proceedings before Charles N Daniels’ melodious and deeply swinging Chloe is used by Rottoli to demonstrate his fine double bass technique, doing so again in the almost hypnotic Walking Through.

This listener particularly enjoyed the bass/drums duet section in final tack Illusion, the piece’s upbeat cheer and grand coda making it a fitting end to an album full of comforting major keys, depth and warmth.

A confident debut album, New Year’s Eve is all the better for never straying too far into modern jazz territory. The perfect aural New Year’s hug, if you will. Hopefully, especially as touring to the UK is currently out of the question, AMP will support further recordings from this very promising trio in the not too distant future.

New Year’s Eve was released on CD & Digital, on 2 October 2020, by AMP Music & Records.

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