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  • New York-based pianist John Di Martino has found a strong audience in Japan after recording for the Japanese Venus label with his Romantic Jazz Trio, which is rounded out by various bassists and drummers available to record, rather than an actual working group. Veterans Ira Coleman and Grady Tate round out the trio for this 2004 session, which kicks off with a stimulating, sometimes humorous, post-bop workout of the standard "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise." The ballad "Summertime" is an essential part of any mainstream musician's repertoire, and this trio manages to keep it fresh by playing it with lyricism in a reserved manner, while still infusing it with a bluesy air; Di Martino's lush playing, Coleman's inventive bassline, and Tate's superb brushwork are enjoyable. Italian opera composer Ruggero Leoncavallo's Vesti la Giubba is hardly a common jazz vehicle, though it is a compelling discovery given Di Martino's haunting setting with Coleman's melancholy arco bass. The pianist also explores modern pop, including a slightly jaunty take of the Beatles' "Michelle," as well as a relaxing interpretation of Latin composer Electo Chepin Rosell's "Murmullo," another hidden gem. ~ Ken Dryden
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