The Rick DellaRatta Trio starts off mellow at a crowded Catalina's
on Saturday, St. Patrick's Day. DellaRatta's loud silk shirt and
black fedora belie his gentle demeanor. He sneaks onstage and
"Kojo Notsuki," an original arrangement of a Japanese melody,
opens the first set. DellaRatta begins in a pedal-happy Winston-esque
prelude accompanied by Eddie Gomez' rich bass bowing, then with a
sly smile introduces a more up-tempo left-hand rhythm that propels
the band into the heart of the piece. A too loudly miked drumset
mars this piece -- DellaRatta's playing could only be heard in the
offbeats here, but this balance problem is fixed in time for the
next number. Guest star Sonny Fortune jams on sax, making the most
of an eighth-note hiccup motif which drummer Lenny White picks up
on his solo. After thundering away over the din of patrons
ordering drinks at the top of their lungs, White rolls away to
nothing and sets us down gently on another melancholy bass bowing
that ends the piece.
"Moon and Sand" features an electric-sounding Eddie Gomez. His
accents give the other soloists something hard to push against,
adding energy to the whole number. DellaRatta anticipates the
beat, as if suffering from a likeable impatience to express
himself. Here also we get to hear DellaRatta's voice for the first
time. Although little could be made out of the words (I caught
"lips sweet stars"), DellaRatta's voice has a soft and pure tone
that is beautiful to hear.
Here, and on "How Insensitive," his American "arrr" and
somewhat forced high notes reveal that this is not actually Jobim
singing, however during the sustained tones it is easy to imagine
it is He. DellaRatta's intonation is perfect, and he wonderfully
recalls Jobim's intentional flatness that gives the notes a
wistful falling sound. "Insensitive" also offers the best piano
melody of the night, with DellaRatta lovingly ringing out the most
essential notes. [Jazz Photo] During a Gomez spotlight, Lenny
White's nicely tick-tocking rims neglect a beat, which leaves the
bass solo sounding a little bare.
White's wirebrush, though, is an excellent soft accompaniment
to "Ill Wind," an original tune from DellaRatta's new "Along
Together" CD. Fortune and Gomez match note lengths as carefully as
if they've played together for years -- fat and short, long and
swelling, plucky and tart. And when Gomez walks his bass with
DellaRatta's piano, the whole room syncs into the swing.
In general, the trio could benefit from more variety of feel;
the tunes are taken from a variety of sources (bossa nova,
original compositions, an Evans tune), but they share
straight-ahead moderate tempos and dynamics. Despite this, the
evening never slows down, and DellaRatta's multiple talents hold
the audience's full attention.
Sonny Fortune bursts out with an especially good solo on the
very swinging "Willow Weep for Me." He twists the sound and plays
with the beat -- first emphasizing, then avoiding, and then
lagging behind the 1234 drum. Whereas on the earlier numbers
Sonny's runs tends to trail off awkwardly (as if he's out of
ideas), here his fast runs end gracefully and convincingly.
Fortune is a good choice for quartet -- his sound is round and
solid but lets the piano come through.
The trio (plus one) is a well cast ensemble of talented
musicians who bandleader DellaRatta showers with superlatives.
Each player moves easily between comping and soloing, offering a
unique personal style without any hint of arrogance. DellaRatta
himself has an almost egoless stage presence; only his bright blue
shirt and amazing musicianship keep him from fading into the
background. Ears sticking out from a mop of hair, DellaRatta is a
young man still finding his musical identity, but he's on the
right track. His wide-ranging influences include Monk, Jobim, Van
Morrison, and Evans -- an odd and wonderful mixture that ten years
from now hopefully may distill into something both rich and
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