Tonight, the Glory of Rome marched into the Brisbane Jazz Club. Or to be more precise, the Glory of the Adriatic coast. That is where Italian Jazz maestros, clarinetist, Bepi D’Amato and pianist, Tony Pancella hail from; the neighbouring cities of Pescara and Chieti, respectively.
This was a lightning visit, as the two musicians came all the way to Australia, courtesy of the Italian Institute of Culture, for a few days and two performances only; one in Sydney and one here at the Brisbane Jazz Club.
Ah, but Bepi and Tony, (the latter in big blue glasses that Elton John would envy), poured all that lightning into a captivating and memorable performance of sublime, swirling, gentle, soul-touching Jazz. And they did it with all the characteristic charm, smiles and personality of Italy; a country that has laid so many milestones on the timeline of the world’s history of music, and must be proud to number Bepi and Tony among her sons.
These long-time friends have been playing together and collaborating for 41 years, and it showed from the moment they stepped on to the stage. With no set-list and an on-stage communication comprising little more than subtle glances, nuanced smiles and a touch of telepathy, they glided spontaneously through exquisite arrangements of the music of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and others.
They did it without drums, bass or vocals; two soul weavers with a silky-skilled musicality and engaging stage presence, sharing their talent, experience, chemistry and the love of the music.
They did it with a charming sense of humour.
When a mobile phone cut in at the end of a Billy Strayhorn tune, Bepi remarked with a smile, that ring-tones always sound the same; illustrating it by playing one of the more popular on his clarinet. When the fridge at the back of the room kicked in with a hum, Bepi played on, noting that the fridge was in tune. ‘Smart fridge’, he said with another big smile.
And they did it without Benny Goodman.
Bepi explained, ‘While I have a great respect for Benny and his music, I am from the other side of the moon; Artie Shaw.’ At the age of 6, after hearing his father’s new Artie Shaw record, he was hooked, and on his way to becoming one of the few Italian musicians to have performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Tony grew up immersed in classical and renaissance music alongside his father’s beloved Jazz influences, such as Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner. At the age of 24, he attended an intensive and inspiring Max Roach workshop, where, of all the workshop participants, the great drummer chose Tony to accompany him for the final concert.
Since those early days, the list of performers with whom this pair have played, individually and/or together, is a roll-call of contemporary Jazz giants, including Lee Konitz, Buddy De Franco, Larry Willis, Tony Scott, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jon Faddis, Bobby Durham, Phil Woods, Ray Mantilla, Charles Tolliver, Jimmy Owens and many more.
Now, to the long list of countries and venues in which they have performed, they can add Australia and the Brisbane Jazz Club.
And about tonight; think Ferrari. Think Lamborghini. Think a Fiat Bambino tootling past the Colosseum. Think a glass of smooth, deep red Negroamaro from Puglia. Think a spellbound audience and the cruisy atmosphere of our low lit riverside Jazz venue.
Think a night to remember; a classic. A night that will be absorbed and assimilated into the 46-year history of Brisbane’s home of live Jazz. A night that has added more waves to the vibe that you can’t help but feel whenever you walk into this Club.
Blink and you missed their whirlwind visit; one that was well worth the effort that Bepi and Tony made to get here.
If you missed the pleasure and privilege of this performance and would like to know what you missed, check them out on YouTube. And then join the chorus to bring them back to Oz and the Brisbane Jazz Club. Soon.
Brisbane Jazz Club