Pianist Danilo Rea and trumpeter Flavio Boltro's reputation for interpreting their fellow countrymen's arias preceded them, with glowing reviews for their Opera CD on one of Europe's leading jazz labels, Act, and in places they lived up to the high praise they've been receiving.
Boltro's trumpet playing is certainly in keeping with the tenor's role in opera. He has a strong, big tone and is capable of nimble, tender phrasing as well as bravura exclamations, and Rea has a light, carefully precise touch at the keyboard that can give way to big rhythmical explosions and fleet-fingered full keyboard arpeggios.
Some of their repertoire choices, such as Bellini's Casta Diva, make natural transitions to jazz where the praise song aspect becomes akin to a ballad or gospel-influenced composition. Their incorporation of other tunes, however, including Sonny Rollins's St Thomas into a rather clunky Brubeck-plays-Verdi adaptation and Thelonious Monk's Straight No Chaser and George Harrison's Here Comes The Sun into a faintly New Orleans-flavoured William Tell Overture, came over as just a little bit too cute.
There's also a tendency, in Boltro's case especially, to skate blithely over the changes with all-purpose scalar lines rather than to truly explore their deeper melodic potential, but at their best the pair produced convivial chamber jazz that also made opera dance and sing a certain kind of blues Milanese.