Mick Rossi - They Have A Word For Everything (Knitting Factory)
by Frank Rubolino (September 2001)


Mick Rossi is a piano player who uses dense phrasing and intricately crafted lines on this complex recording of a dozen of his compositions. He mixes free playing with structure containing elements of various genres of jazz to paint a kaleidoscopic image of the music. European classicism intertwines with the roots of American jazz as his compositions wend through ever-changing movements, alternating tempo, and varying theme switches. Interpreting his work is a strong cast of musicians. Dave Douglas with his inimitable trumpet sound is present, as is alto and baritone player Andy Laster. Both horn men are prominently featured as soloists and ensemble players who execute the difficult charts of Rossi with precision and then express themselves with open improvisations. Kermit Driscoll adds the bass flavoring, and Charles Descarfino supplies the irregular drumbeat for these tunes having multiple personalities and a decided Jekyll/Hyde character.


Rossi is not a percussive pianist, yet his playing rings with full-bodied melodiousness. This style matches neatly with Douglas's approach, allowing the trumpet player to be affirmative in this semi-controlled environment where the lines between pre-composed and instantly composed are blurred. He and Laster add contrasting tonality, particularly when Laster switches to the brooding baritone. The music takes on an aura of seriousness to dispel any perceptions of levity. At specific moments, Rossi turns aggressive, as he does on his solo on "Haus", but he quickly returns to variations on the evolving themes to suggest a gayer atmosphere. Throughout the recording, these mood shifts occur, allowing the musicians to spring off into divergent territory and then return to the home base established by Rossi.


Several tunes are freewheeling examples of openness, such as "Whatever", which finds Douglas and Rossi communicating in a liberated manner. The exchanges between Douglas and Laster can also get intense, as on "A Stubborn Thereness" where the environment becomes robust through their vigorous interplay. Throughout, Rossi is the commanding force dictating the unpredictable routes the music takes through the blues to freestyle to European ethnic and classical music. The recording is at once heavy and light, open and structured, rhythmic and arrhythmic. It is a showcase for both the playing and compositional skills of Rossi, and his supporting cast of musicians is fully accordant with his direction.

 

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