36th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 12-16 October, 2022

Roberto Ottaviano - Alexander Hawkins


Roberto Ottaviano - ss
Alexander Hawkins – p

Two idiosyncratic jazz virtuosos, representing two different countries and generations, introduce the CD Forgotten Matches: The Worlds of Steve Lacy recorded last year to commemorate the legendary American saxophonist Steve Lacy’s 10th death anniversary. It features compositions by the Master as well as his contemporaries influenced by Steve Lacy’s musical genius.

According to jazz experts, to take on the music of Steve Lacy is perhaps either for the brave or foolhardy. It is a tribute to the sound that has characterized every style and fashion instead stay entangled, topical already in the 50s, which today represents the highest level of virtuosity for timbre, melodic ideas, rhythmic groove and extension. Steve Lacy was an unclassifiable musician, used to move between the different arts and between expressive worlds, which he shared with Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor, Mal Waldron, Gil Evans, African and European coryphées, different poets and writers.

“The more I listen to dozens of Steve Lacy’s unreleased recordings, focus on his language and try to connect wires of his inspirations, the more I feel small and tiny in facing a giant still misunderstood”, admits Ottaviano.

Ottaviano has waited some considerable time before he felt able to approach Lacy’s music, and, according to critics, the wait has paid off handsomely as this is not just a fine tribute to Lacy and his music, but a fine album all round: the duo stepped out from the shadow of the Maestro and displayed its own distinctive voice.

It is most unusual for the musicians to make what is perhaps their most personal statement by playing the music of others, especially such a towering figure as Lacy. This album is essential listening not just for those with an interest in Steve Lacy, but also all who are interested in the development of the soprano saxophone in contemporary jazz.

During his active international career lasting almost three decades, Italian saxophonist, composer and pedagogue Roberto Ottaviano has been considered one of the leading and influential European voices. He got into music as self-taught drummer and flutist, studied clarinet at the Conservatory, and later on, mesmerized by the music of Lester Young and John Coltrane, started learning to play saxophone independently.

Thanks to the accidental meeting with Steve Lacy, his model and adviser, Ottaviano honed his skills under Lacy’s tutelage during 1980–1986 partly in France partly in Italy. While in the USA he studied under Ran Blake, Bill Russo and George Russell, and in Europe received instructions in composition from Giacomo Manzoni and Luigi Nono, as well as attended master classes and workshops led by other music coryphées.

Ottaviano collaborated and recorded with a number of European and American luminaries including Dizzy Gillespie, Art Farmeiur, Mal Waldron, Albert Mangelsdorff, Chet Baker, Enrico Rava, Franz Koglmann, Ray Anderson, Steve Swallow, Irene Schweizer, Kenny Wheeler, Paul Bley, Myra Melford, Misha Mengelberg, Nguyen Le, Han Bennink, Mark Dresser, John Taylor, Graham Haynes, Marc Ducret, Trilok Gurt and Pierre Favre.

Recently, he has been focusing on projects with Ensemble Calixtinus, Radicanto and electronic music virtuoso Francesco Scagliola featuring ancient and traditional music beside other styles.

Ottaviano admits, that his music is greatly influenced by his European culture as well as other medias – theatre, dance, film, poetry and visual art.

The musician has travelled all around Europe, toured in the USA, Canada, India, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Cameroon and other exotic countries. His discography amounts to 69 albums, 13 of which as a leader.

Ottaviano founded a jazz course at the Conservatory of his native Bari, leads workshops and master classes in various countries; authored the book The Sax: The Instrument, the History, the Protagonists.

British jazz pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins discovered music as classical musician, namely organist. It gave him a good foundation for mastering Hammond organ. Alexander has formed Decoy organ trio together with bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble. Some of their concerts and recordings have included free jazz guru – saxophonist Joe McPhee.

Interestingly enough, the musician has undergraduate law degree and PhD in criminology. He decided not to study jazz academically, for he had sufficient technique to play what he wanted.

In 2006, Alexander formed Convergence Quartet with Dominic Lash and Harris Eisenstadt, recorded several CDs that earned critical recognition. Next year he started Alexander Hawkins Ensemble. In addition, the keyboardist performs and records as a soloist, composes and arranges for acclaimed formations.

In 2012, Hawkins was selected as one of the first group of young composers to be part of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Soundhub programme; next year he was commissioned to write and perform pieces for BBC Radio 3’s Baroque Spring series; and this year he is working on collection of arrangements for London’s Dedication Orchestra.

The pianist has 14 CDs to his credit both as a leader and co-author. As a pianist, Hawkins has been influenced by a large number of free jazz pianists, all of whom, in his view, had a unique sound. However, his main idol is Art Tatum. 

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