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Tommaso Starace Quartet

Tommaso Starace Quartet plays Cannonball Adderley, Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny, 24/11/2019.

Photography: Photograph of Tommaso Starace and Paolo Adamo courtesy of Debs Hancock.

by Ian Mann

November 27, 2019


"An evening of compelling, passionate and exciting jazz. It’s 5 stars from me". Guest contributor Debs Hancock enjoys this tribute to Cannonball Adderley from saxophonist Tommaso Starace and his band.

Tommaso Starace Quartet play Cannonball Adderley, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/11/2019.

Well, the great Mann himself doesn’t give 5 stars for a performance (from my observations)
HOWEVER… he is not here and has asked me to write about tonight’s entertainment with Tommaso Starace and his Quartet and I conclude, “It’s 5 stars from me”.

Comments from the audience were very complimentary “It was like a great night in a NEW York Jazz Club” declared more than one of the regular and discerning audience after Sunday’s performance. “I closed my eyes and I could be in any major jazz club in the world, marvellous!”

Certainly it was anything but a New York evening outside on a rather wet and windy November Sunday night in Abergavenny! But inside The Melville Centre it was a very different story.

Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley was an American jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bop era of the 1950s and1960s and notably performed with some of the most iconic jazz musicians of the day, appearing on some of the most iconic jazz albums to this day.

“He was simply the best” opined Tommaso, “A disciple of Charlie Parker, yet he continued pushing and inventing new music and exciting compositions full of fresh ideas.” A lesser known character perhaps in the company of giants, but the analysis of Cannonball’s discography is extraordinary.

Tommaso’s passion for his subject was pleasingly shared with his audience, both in his story telling and his musical connections, and,  together with his stellar band,  he provided an evening of compelling, passionate and exciting jazz.

Born in Milan, Tommaso Starace came to Britain in 1995, graduating with a First in Music at the Birmingham Conservatoire and then with a post grad degree in Jazz Studies at the Guildhall in London. He runs British and Italian bands and has recorded several much-lauded albums. He’s also appeared with leading musicians such as Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzmann, Billy Cobham, Dave Liebman and Jim Mullen.

London based Tommaso played alto and soprano saxes at The Melville Centre in Abergavenny, with his Quartet, comprised of a stellar trio including renowned pianist David Newton, bassist Al Swainger and, fellow Italian, drummer Paolo Adamo. They had been on a mini tour of the area performing in Bristol the previous evening.

Paolo Adamo had previously visited Black Mountain Jazz Club notably with The Ben Thomas Trumpet Quartet, but it was a first visit to BMJ for both Dave Newton and Al Swainger, and hopefully not to be the last.

Commencing with a lively rendition of “Del Sasser”, followed by “Scotch and Water” and “Waltz for Debby” Tommaso took us on a journey through two sets of Cannonball Adderley’s musical collaborations including Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Miles Davies to name a few.

In the second set “Once I Loved”, “Grand Central”, “Janine” and “Worksong” shone like musical diamonds with solos providing depth, exploring the nature of each tune, expertly crafted by Tommaso Starace, Dave Newton, Al Swainger and Paolo Adamo.

It always interests me when I meet musicians, as to how small a world is the jazz world, where musical connections are very present and often right in the room. On this occasion, it appeared very apt that pianist Dave Newton had performed live with Cannonball Adderley’s trumpeter brother Nat in the past. A lovely link connecting our small jazz club to this iconic musician.

Sunday’s BMJ Club night, was the final club night of Black Mountain Jazz Club 2019. The club ended the year with an almost full house, having had an excellent evening.
GREAT news for this small but growing club in Wales.


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