Dave Tofani,
An American Garden
(Solo Winds, 2001)

An American Garden is a richly rewarding display of vibrant and colourful jazz compositions by the extraordinarily talented Dave Tofani. Tofani has an impressive curriculum vitae, having worked for many years alongside, under and behind the big names of the music industry. Now he presents his second solo album, dedicated to "The Greatest Generation" -- that being the Americans who were raising their families during World War II, including his immigrant grandparents and parents. The seven compositions on the CD embrace the themes of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," and their originality and complexity add to their overall attraction.

Tofani, a Juilliard alumnus, has mastered saxophone, clarinet, flute and piano, and he brings the depth of his experience to bear throughout his composition and performance. Ranging from jazz quintet through string orchestra to big band, Tofani presents a phenomenal sound. Redolent in imagery, it should accompany a blockbuster film, but instead provides a storyboard in the mind, opening with a full-blown big band extravaganza, recalling the pride his father had in his vegetable garden: a place of refuge and joy. It must indeed have been something to behold to inspire such a piece!

Next, the string orchestra provides delightful harmonies to the melodic alto sax in "New York At Night," dedicated to Dave's uncle, first of the family to be born in America and accordingly named Americo. A strong influence, he was also an excellent saxophonist, and Tofani's first professional engagements at age 15 were alongside his uncle in the John Nicolosi Orchestra.

"Quintetto di Flauti" features Tofani playing all five flutes with a rhythm section, and the listener is treated to a sumptuous solo on the alto flute. The next piece, dedicated to his late wife, Margit Echols, is over nine minutes of soprano sax backed by string orchestra and rhythm section. I mention the time because it surprised me to realise how long this very personal and special composition lasted -- the sax leads and lifts, and one becomes absorbed in the glorious sound and sensation. Still with close family ties in mind, "Elizabeth's Journey" is dedicated to Tofani's daughter. The sax again transcends time and reality, inviting the listener to luxuriate in the beautiful melodies conjured by this incredibly accomplished musician.

On tenor sax, he is backed by a jazz quintet in a homage to John Coltrane, with Jack Wilkins on guitar, in a pacy and appropriately named "Rough Ride," which contrasts well with the finale, "Liberte." In this, Tofani outdoes all previous presentations, playing all 10 of the woodwind parts on saxophones, clarinets and flutes! He incorporates a mixture of timings, perhaps to refer to the vast diversity of immigrants whose first sight of America was the permanent first lady -- the Statue of Liberty.

Dave Tofani proves why he has won the Most Valuable Player Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences three times; that he has learned from his experiences under the direction of some of the world's most distinguished conductors; that recording and working with the likes of Sinatra and Streisand, Quincy Jones and James Galway, Herbie Hancock and George Benson has been time well-spent. The proof is the glorious and sustained sound barely contained within An American Garden -- a magnificent recording which feeds the senses and restores the soul. This will surely prove to be one of the definitive albums of the first decade of the second millennium.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 18 January 2003

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