Given the enormous, even overwhelming, quantity of quality Italian jazz recordings, it should not come as a surprise that this one, led by drummer Tullio De Piscopo, is as good as it is. The name De Piscopo may not be recognized in the States, but he has built a strong reputation in Italy and it is easy to see why. His quintet (wonderfully augmented on a couple of tracks by American saxophonist George Robert) burns passionately, recalling the heyday of hard bop. A good mix of tunes, including several mini-classics and the leader's own pithy lines plus tight arrangements and inventive improvisations, create an atmosphere of classic proportions. De Piscopo propels with muscular strength and his solos are precious demonstrations of the art of drumming. A feature, "Up Stroke," for example, shows an ability to merge melody with primitive rhythms. The Chiara brothers, Fulvio and Claudio, are a formidable front line, augmented by the supple strings of guitarist Alessio Menconi and bassist Rosario Bonaccorso. As a point of reference, this group at their best is reminiscent of some of the finest work of Shelly Manne's powerhouse small groups.
While not every track is that good, there are enough delights throughout to continuously please.