The joy (and terror!) of live performance is that once started, you can never go back. There may be other nights, but what happens “here and now” will never be repeated exactly the same. When recording (film or music), the joy (and terror!) is that you can (budgets withstanding …) always go back for one more take. With Volume One of “One Take,” producer Peter Cardinali takes the courageous/creative step of bringing four musicians into a studio and, without benefit of rehearsal or even a track list, gives his talented charges the task of laying down an album using one-shot, complete takes. Then, to add to the fun and capture the session from another point of view, a camera crew is also engaged so that the result can be heard (CD) or seen (DVD) at the discretion of the consumer.
Happy to report that the experiment is largely a success due in no small way to the choice of artists.
The mix of Guido Basso’s ever-expressive flugelhorn with Joey Defranesco’s unerring bass lines and frequently frenetic melodic riffs, discreetly underscored or complemented at will by Lorne Lofsky’s guitar and everything pushed pulled or cajoled through Vito Rezza’s drum kit, makes the musical result a constant pleasure. Note-perfect, shift-secure and tight-ended it isn’t (“How Insensitive” was in danger of never completing it’s deliciously Latin sojourn—replete with a Beethovenesque rhythmic punctuation that was a perfect example of how this quirky quartet really listens), but the sense of freshly minted excellence (once the early jitters of “My Romance” had vanished and the optimal balance had been established in “My Funny Valentine”) permeates these varied charts from stem to stern.
And what a finish! With the ink still wet and “very sloppily written,” a new setting of Lucio Dalla’s “Caruso” was literally dropped in the band’s laps for an instant realization. After Defranesco’s thoughtful intro, Basso got right inside the tune from the first verse, then with Olympic level relay handoffs, the lyrical melody made its appointed rounds, enriched at every stop before slipping away into the night in a wash of cymbals.
But by now, those watching the DVD may well have switched off their screens. Improvisation in music works well, but the intrepid cameramen couldn’t match the subtlety and skills of their colleagues. The frequently grainy images worked well (especially with Basso’s husky tone), yet the jerky pans, awkward superimpositions and the “Oh, I’ve discovered a new toy” overkill of split-screen techniques (particularly in “Walkin’,” which was redeemed on all scores by Rezza’s stellar solo that travelled a decidedly tribal path) more detracted from than enhanced the effect.
Future editions, no doubt will address that issue. In the meantime, slip on “Someday My Prince Will Come” and savour Defranesco’s ability to stir up two octaves in his right hand and raise the emotional heat a dozen degrees before melodically setting up his colleagues in a conversational manner, respectful to all and with the feeling they’d played this tune hundreds of time already. JWR