Italian Pianist Dado Moroni Set to Release Live in Beverly Hills CD/DVD on
March 8 on Resonance Records
Moroni's Label Debut Features Marco Panascia and Peter Erskine
Italian pianist and composer Dado Moroni is revered on both sides of the Atlantic for his driving piano power and harmonic ingenuity. Now, with the release of his Resonance Records debut Live in Beverly Hills, the international jazz journeyman jumps to the very front of the improvised instrumental pack.
With a varied track list drawing from all corners of the jazz liturgy, the album showcases Moroni's swing-centric approach to the idiom. In an age of countless 'tribute' albums, the record is dedicated to a singular purpose - the glory of the groove. "To me, Jazz is a state of mind," Moroni says via phone from his home in Italy. "It's about love, and pulse and heart. And a commitment to groove. Great music has always been about that - from Lee Morgan to Stevie Wonder, it's that sense of freshness that inspires me."
Moroni was born and raised in Genoa, Italy, and took to jazz early. "My parents bought a piano for my sister, but she didn't show a lot of interest in it. When I came along, I was immediately taken with it from the age of three. My father was always playing jazz records in the house - people like Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Count Basie. I fell in love with those records, and started trying to imitate them on the piano. My mother, who played accordion, saw how interested I was in the instrument, and put me on her lap to explain the difference between major and minor chords. And that was the beginning!"
Originally self-taught, Moroni would heed the advice of a family friend and study piano formally, eventually gigging with local Italian, as well visiting American musicians. Unsure he'd be able to mount a successful career in music, Moroni actually enrolled in law school. But a chance encounter accompanying famed bebop trumpet pioneer Dizzy Gillespie would forever alter Moroni's musical path, with the elder jazz statesman telling him, 'Man, there are too many lawyers out there. You should play piano!' "That was the turning point," Moroni says. "I decided right there that I could make a living doing what I loved to do. So I took him seriously, and quit law school!"
Moroni's love for the jazz language is evident across all seven tracks of Live in Beverly Hills. The album opens with Moroni's fierce left-hand anchoring a sea of buoyant band interplay on his own "Ghanian Village," complete with Kenny Barron-esque piano proddings that recall the elder pianist's rhythmic renegade. "If I'm playing a song and I hear a sound that makes me think of someone like Kenny Barron, who I love and is one of my dearest friends, I say hello to him in the music," Moroni says. Other infectious album cuts include a metrically-modulating romp through famed Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis' "Django," as well as a Bossa Nova-infused take on "Where Is Love?" from the musical Oliver!
Moroni swings and surprises on the album's second half as well, with nods to both bassist (and sometime employer) Ron Carter on "Einbahnstrasse," as well as the sounds of Moroni's homeland on the traditional Sicilian song "Vitti Na Crozza." Moroni rounds out the set with two cunning originals, "Nose Off," and "Jamal," dedicated to piano pioneer Ahmad Jamal. "Ahmad is perfect," Moroni says. "He's like a jazz Picasso."
Dynamically recorded at Rising Jazz Stars in Beverly Hills, CA, Live in Beverly Hills features Moroni's deep-pocketed piano grooves resonating in near 3D clarity on a thunderous Fazioli grand. With empathetic ensemble work courtesy of rhythm section aces Marco Panascia and Peter Erskine, the album skillfully merges both ends of the recorded divide into an arresting aural affair. It's an album that thinks like a studio recording, but swings like a night out on the town. Live in Beverly Hills will also be available as a special-edition Blu-ray DVD, featuring the complete CD contents, as well as the bonus track "Just An Old Song."
Moroni was further energized by the kinetic atmosphere created by Klabin and Co. for the album's recording. "George actually filled the studio with chairs and had a jazz party," Moroni says. "It was an inspiring way to record. There's also a certain degree of spontaneity on the record, probably because I was trying to pay attention to what Peter Erskine was playing. Never having played with him before, I was actually enjoying him as much as I was playing with him. The same thing happened with Marco Panascia, because he's just a fantastic bassist. I was so thrilled to be playing with the two of them, I became totally absorbed in the music."
Moroni rose to international acclaim in both the United States and Europe, and has toured and recorded with legendary artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Joe Henderson, Johnny Griffin, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Freddie Hubbard, and other jazz luminaries. Moroni also served as a juror for the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.
Beverly Hills may be better known for its celebrity sightings and postcard-perfect weather, than a propensity for crafting groove-centered jazz recordings. But with the release of Dado Moroni's electrifying new album Live in Beverly Hills, the case has been made that both he and this sun-drenched Los Angeles suburb were born with a backbeat.
DADO MORONI - Live in Beverly Hills
Resonance Records RCD-1012 / March 8, 2011