Massimo Biolcati is reviewed by Step Tempest with his new album Incontre

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Massimo Biolcati


by Richard Kamins

Massimo Biolcati

Bassist and composer Massimo Biolcati may be best known for his work with guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer Ferenc Nemeth in the trio Gilfema (which morphed into the Lionel Loueke Trio when the guitarist signed with Blue Note Records).  Biolcati met the other two musicians when all were in attendance at The Berklee College of Music; all three went to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles. By then, they are a working trio landing a contract in 2004 with ObliqSound Records where they recorded two albums (and Loueke issued his first solo album on which the other two appeared). Gilfema will issue a new album later this year. In the meantime, Biolcati has been busy as a sideman and producer.  He’s worked with the Hornē Electric Band, drummer Matt Slocum, and Luciana Souza (among others).

Incontre” (Sounderscore) is Biolcati’s first album as a leader since 2008’s “Persona” (ObliqSound) and features Dayna Stephens (tenor and soprano saxophones), Sam Yahel (piano, organ), and Jongkuk Kim (drums).  The nine-song program features four originals by the leader, four standards, and Dave Holland’s “How’s Never” (which the composer first recorded in 1995 with the Gateway trio). The album opens with Biolcati’s “Hello, I Lied” which the composer with a circular bass line – the snap of Kim’s drums, the melody “sung” by the tenor sax, and the sharp funk of Yahel’s piano solo moves forward with delight.  Stephens steps out into his solo with the bassist egging him on before the piano and drums kick back in.  The saxophonist breaks down the melody into short, rhythmical, phrases before heading back to the main melody. The bassist takes the song out the way it began.

The next four tracks are the “standards.”  First up is Thelonious Monk’s “Boo Boo’s Birthday” which dances along on the bassist’s active “walking” lines and Kim’s delightful dancing snare drum.  Charlie Chaplin’s oft-recorded “Smile” finds Stephens on soprano sax and Yahel on organ.  The piece has a funky feel with interactions between the front line and the rhythm section that keeps one alert.  The quartet then moves into “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” (from Tears For Fears) and really have a great time playing around with the changing tempos. Listen to the dancing drums and bass beneath Yahel’s piano solo; Kim then engages in a dialogues with Stephens during the sax solo while the pianist and bassist keep the song moving. Yahel goes back to organ for Charles Mingus’s “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” – the inherent blueness of the piece shines right through the slow shuffle beat while the organist moves through the melody.  Stephens’s muscular tenor solo brings Coleman Hawkins to mind.

The balance of the recording has three tunes from the bassist and the Holland piece.  The title song is  a handsome ballad with an emotionally rich melody and excellent solos from Stephens, Yahel, and Biolcati.  “How’s Never” rides forward on the snappy drums and bass with Yahel’s organ sounds meshing nicely with Stephens’s singing soprano sax.  “Fellini” is another fine ballad piece with a nicely-sculpted melody line (first played by the tenor saxophonist).  Yahel’s acoustic piano solo creates a short yet finely painted portrait before Stephens takes over and creates his own strong audio painting.  The album closes with “Birthday Song, Almost” – this melody is also well-formed, allowing the soloists to build intelligent solos and the rhythm section to take chances with the tempo, the accents, and the intensity.  After Stephens’s fine tenor solo, Kim takes over for a solo that raises the heat without over-baking the song. In fact, the tune and the album end on a high note.

Incontre” is a delight from start to finish. All the musicians ask is that you listen with open ears and open minds. The material Massimo Biolcati chose for this session covers a lot of territory without getting mired in one genre.  The intelligent musicianship and the bright sound quality both serve to remind the listener that creative music can be fun, exciting, contemplative, and rewarding for all involved.

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Here’s the Charlie Chaplin classic:

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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