With a viewpoint colored by vast experiences—formative classical and jazz encounters while growing up in Sweden and Italy, immersive education at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, finishing work under the masters at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and real-deal maneuvering in New York and beyond—bassist Massimo Biolcati plays and writes with a globalist’s perspective. While best known for sideman gigs with peers like Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke and giants of the music several years older, such as trumpeter Terence Blanchard, vocalist Luciana Souza and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, Biolcati has actually branched out to cover myriad aspects of the music business. In 2009 he created iReal Pro—an app that’s become ubiquitous in jazz education circles and individual practice regimens—and in recent times he’s donned the producer’s cap in a variety of settings. Now, with the release of these two albums—the first on the Sounderscore imprint, both produced by Biolcati—this cooperative catalyst and positive polymath is poised to draw even greater attention.
Massimo Biolcati Incontre
Twelve years separate the release of Biolcati’s leader debut, Persona (Obliqsound, 2008), and this follow-up. And a number of factors, beyond time, drive a wedge between the two releases—personnel lists are completely different, the split aesthetic of Persona (“Motion” vs. “Stillness”) holds no sway here, and Incontre is less concerned with texture than its predecessor was. But Biolcati’s appreciation for organic cohesion and his gifts in the groove-making department help to connect these albums.
Joining forces with longtime friend Dayna Stephens (on saxophones), occasional playing partner Sam Yahel (covering piano and organ), and relative newcomer Jongkuk Kim (on drums), Biolcati is in peak form. Harmonically adept, melodically aware, and casually playful in movement, the bassist presents with a fluid yet firm sound that often smiles and winks its way through a song. Opener “Hello, I Lied,” one of four originals on the playlist, immediately makes that point and sets the tone with some rhythmic and metric sleight of hand. As with much of what follows, its wrinkles prove to be key selling points.
Regardless of where compositional credit rests, Biolcati claims all of this music as his own. He slyly reframes Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” with some help from Stephens’ piquant soprano and Yahel’s simmering organ, surrounds Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” with a hustle-and-flow atmosphere, accessorizes the bodies of tradition with the personalities of the present during Thelonious Monk‘s “Boo Boo’s Birthday” and Charles Mingus‘ “Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love,” and allows beauty to rise above on the Kenny Wheeler-influenced title track. Whether recasting a classic or putting something new in the spotlight, Biolcati and his band mates always manage to bond while brewing something tasty and unique.