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Music with many accents

Tenor saxophonist Enzo Avitable combines Italian rhythms with primitive instruments and taiko drums.

June 30, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Cultural blending was in full force Thursday night in the performance of Italian jazz tenor saxophonist Enzo Avitable. Consider the elements: Naples-born Avitable, who has collaborated with performers from James Brown to African griot musician Mory Kante, was leading his septet in a combined appearance with the determinedly traditional, distinctly un-jazz-like Bottari percussion ensemble from Italy's Campania region. And they were doing so in the plaza of the Japan American Cultural Community Center.

The cultural diversity, as it turned out, was no problem for an enthusiastic audience that turned out for the opening event of the third season of "1st and Central Summer Concerts." And by the time Avitable was halfway through his set, concert-goers were on their feet, many clustered in front of the bandstand, dancing an array of styles, steps and moves even more eclectic than the music.

It wasn't surprising, given the visceral qualities of what they were hearing. Bottari is a traditional group that is curiously similar, in some respects, to Japan's taiko ensembles. But Bottari's instruments are far more primitive -- wooden barrels and vats, scythes and steel sticks, with which the ancient rhythms of pastellesas and tarantellas are performed. Despite their seemingly implausible connection with the jazz accents of his septet, Avitable somehow combined the differing ingredients into a steaming cioppino of highly seasoned rhythm and sound.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 17, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
Enzo Avitabile: A review in the June 30 Calendar section of Italian saxophonist Enzo Avitabile misspelled his surname as Avitable.

His soloing, jazz-based, nonetheless also embraced the melisma-rich vocal style of traditional tarantella. Yet even here the jazz connection remained strong, as the brisk accents of Avitable's three-piece horn section interacted with the pounding percussion of the Bottari drummers. His singing, frequent interaction with the audience and ebullient, eminently likable manner all contributed to one of the more entertaining musical events of the season.

When Avitable and Bottari were joined by a taiko drummer for a final encore, the night's cultural blend became even more embracing. At that moment, Avitable knocked out jazz riffs, the drummer responded and the Bottari players capped it all off with a thunderous climactic roar, completing an unlikely circle of musical universality.

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