Sunday, February 5, 2006

Romano Mussolini Dies!

Romano Mussolini Trio - Mirage PDU Jazz A-6018 (Italy) 1974

I was intending to post some bossa stuff here today but before I do a quick word on Maestro Mussolini who passed away a couple days ago.

Romano Mussolini, jazz pianist and bandleader, the third and youngest son of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was born on September 26, 1927 in Forlì in the Po valley and enjoyed a privileged childhood until the early years of the Second World War.

In 1943 he began experimenting with playing jazz on the piano, and was largely self-taught. After his father and his mistress, Carla Petacci, were shot while trying to escape to Switzerland in April 1945, Romano assumed a low profile, and after the war he launched his professional career as a pianist under the pseudonym “Romano Full”. By the mid-1950s, however, he had established a considerable national reputation under his own name, playing and recording with the trumpeter Nunzio Rotondo.

He led his own trio from the late 1950s onwards, the Romano Mussolini All Stars, and in 1959 supported a number of international guests, notably the Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, the singer Helen Merrill and the American trumpeter Chet Baker, on visits to Italy. Baker was notorious for his drug dependency, and Mussolini remembered him as “dangerous to be around”, because of constant investigations by narcotics police. On the other hand, the pianist claimed not to remember the laid-back trumpeter’s first words to him, delivered in the hip tones of the ultra-cool jazzman: “Gee, it’s a drag about your old man.” They worked together at the Santa Tecla club in Milan, where, according to Baker’s biographer, James Gavin, “audiences flocked to see the younger Mussolini and a famous junkie on one stage”.

In 1963, leading his own band once more, Mussolini won the Italian critics’ album of the year prize for Jazz at Studio 7. At the same time, his style began to move from the cool West Coast modern jazz favoured by Gullin and Baker to more romantic fare, and by the following decade he was recording moody albums such as Mirage and Soft and Swing, leavened by his occasional high-octane jam sessions with the expatriate US clarinettist Tony Scott, who had settled in Rome.

By the 1980s, although his natural style on record had now developed further into one that drew heavily on Oscar Peterson’s playing, Mussolini began to play an even more traditional repertoire in public, recording with the guitarist Lino Patruno in his touring tribute to Louis Armstrong, as well as playing a very similar repertoire with the Austrian trumpeter Oscar Klein.
He was a favourite at Italian festivals throughout the 1990s and recently appeared as a guest at Europe’s biggest traditional jazz festival at Ascona in Switzerland with Patruno.

1) The Twitch
2) Omaggio A Oscar Peterson
3) Sweet Elisabeth
4) Hong Kong
5) Mirage
6) Blues For Alexandra
7) Rachel's Lullaby


Here's a real nice album cut by the maestro in 1974. It's fender rhodes all the way, both moody and groovy - a monster! ...might surprise a few of you!

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