Craftsmanship, Refinement Guide Umbria Jazz Festival

Ted Panken,
July 17, 2013


Most of the indoor concerts during the first several days were by bands from Europe. The Igor Butman Big Band, an outfit of virtuosos, offered a 90-minute set that displayed their mastery of post-Dizzy Gillespie jazz orchestra language, rendering both bright numbers and ballads with the precision, flair and swing of the Atomic-era Basie Band on steroids and a “We will crush you” attitude reminiscent of the better editions of the Buddy Rich Orchestra. Butman’s own extravagant tonal personality on tenor saxophone came through on a vibrato-laden tour de force entitled “Samba de Igor” and on “Nostalgia,” on which he showcased his wide dynamic range on a creative intro solo based on “Miles’ Mode,” then stated a refrain that evoked the cool blueness of Benny Carter and Benny Golson, uncorking a long, build-to-climax statement.

Tenor counterpart Dmitry Mospan offered a Frank Foster-esque solo on an arrangement of “Dark Eyes” by pianist Nick Levinovsky that featured a long, crisp sax-section soli and symphonic flourishes toward the end. Later, Mospan concluded on Levinovsky’s “Africa Brass,” based on John Coltrane’s “Blues Minor,” with a turbulent, big-sound solo evocative of early ’60s Coltrane, counterstating an old master turn by trombonist Alevtina Polyakova that showcased her control of rhythm, tone and velocity and a fleet, boppish solo by alto saxophonist Iliya Morozov that had the feel of Gigi Gryce.

Later in the show, Butman introduced world-class vocalist Fantine Pritoula, who sang the lyric of “Night In Tunisia”—done in a Dizzy-meets-Machito style—in a full contralto, scatting cogently until the famous break. Then she sang Chick Corea’s “You’re Everything” with sensitive phrasing, setting up Butman’s warp-speed, crisply articulated solo.