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  • Jonathan Widran


Aside from priming your passion for high energy, hard swinging and off the charts imaginative improvisational trad jazz to anticipate a fresh, transcendent level of expression, one of the other prerequisites for fully appreciating L.A. based pianist Michael Ragonese’s first trio album Stracci (and second overall) is brushing up on your Italian.

That’s because from the album title (translating to “rags,” his nickname since childhood) through two of his most compelling originals, both recorded live in the studio – the haunting, meditative “In Attesa” and the hustle-bustle, heavy falling raindrops inspired “La Poggia – Ragonese is all about paying proud homage to his Italian heritage through song with his tasteful and fiery trio of studio and touring veterans, drummer Mark Ferber and Italian bassist Luca Alemanno.

Though his first exposure as a teen to Bill Evans ensured that Ragonese would stop performing in classical competitions and recitals forever, the pianist lets his listeners in on that foundational part of his life in subtle ways, via the hypnotic, gently rolling intro to the lyrical and ultimately deeply percussive “Escape” and with the subtle piano musings on the aforementioned “In Attesa” (“waiting” in Italian).

While the intensely mood swinging original suite of the dark, then speedy, rambunctious “Tides of Tomorrow, Pt. 1” and somber reflection “Tides of Tomorrow, Pt. 2” is the centerpiece of the eight-piece adventure, other tracks showcase Ragonese’s inventive ways with interpreting everything from an early Miles Davis frolic (the wildly dizzying “Solar”) to an appealing Songbook standard, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” shared as a confident strut about what the future holds. To Ragonese and his trio, for this grand excursion, we exclaim an Italian word that everyone will recognize: Bravo!

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