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Margherita Fava - Tatatu (self-released)

22 March 2023

Italian pianist Margherita Fava clearly has no interest in being flashy for flash’s sake. On her debut album Tatatu, she and her bandmates, including bassist Javier Enrique, drummer Michael J. Reed, and saxophonist Greg Tardy, stick to the tunes, letting their improvisations be led by the melodies, whether those come from other’s compositions or their own. “Birds of Passage,” for example, sets off on a fractured rhythm that hops, skips and jumps across the notes, but stays in the pocket, keeping all the players on track. “Restless Mind” similarly puts the rhythm section on a hot plate, but the pianist and saxophonist make beautiful music over it anyway. “Tidal Waves” casts its tune to a dreamy quality, something Tardy and Fava both exploit with gentle taste and exquisite feel. “Resilience” gets funky, Fava’s broken beat chords unhooking Tardy from the tether, though he chooses to still stay within sight. A cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning” stays irrepressibly tuneful even as it swings so hard it nearly lets go the bat. Opening track “Face Off” is simply a duet between Fava and Tardy, with no improv at all. Ready to improvise on Tatatu but unwilling to let it compromise the song, Fava and her crew rarely falter.