Basso / Valdambrini Quintet: Stella By Starlight (1970) DejaVu 2009

Selection: Donna Lu (Attilio Donadio)

Track List

A1  Eighty One  (Miles Davis)
A2  Spanish Mood  (Gil Evans)
A3  Uroni  (Valdambrini)
A4  Donna Lu  (Attilio Donadio)
B1  Conseguenza  (Valdambrini)
B2  Ricorda Me  (Valdambrini)
B3  Inver Time  (Agoni)
B4  Stella By Starlight  (Washington/ Young)


Giorgio Azzolini, double bass; Gilberto Cuppini, drums; Angel ‘Pocho’ Gatti, Piano; Gianni Basso, tenor saxophone; Oscar Valdambrini, trumpet; graphic design, Gianni Rossi Studio; photography, Riccardo Schwamenthal; liner notes, Paolo Scotti; recorded in Milan, 1970-1971.

Q-B-V regular pianist Renato Sellani here replaced by Argentian/Italian Angel “Pocho” Gatti.

Some jazz standards have a vocal version and instrumental one. The lyrics can be the key to understanding the instrumental interpretation and melody. Take a look under the bonnet at the lyrics of Stella by Starlight – a bit of nature, and some relationship-thing. Fortunately, Stella’s available as a purely instrumental jazz standard, 1958 Miles Davis, trumpet, John Coltrane, tenor sax, Bill Evans, piano, Paul Chambers, bass, Jimmy Cobb, drums. Follow Miles lines below against the lyrics.

Stella By Starlight – Ella Fitzgerald lyrics

The song a robin sings
Through years of endless springs
A murmur of a brook at eventide
That ripples by a nook where two lovers hide

That great symphonic theme
That’s Stella by starlight
And not a dream
She’s all of these and more
She’s everything that you’d adore


Have you seen Stella by starlight
With moon in her hair?
That’s Stella by starlight
Raptures so rare

She’s all of this and more
She’s everything that you’d adore

Frank Sinatra alternative rhyming closing lines

My heart and I agree,
She’s everything on this earth to me.

That’s the tricky part of lyrics with a love theme: requiring some fancy footwork according to the gender of the singer. 


Basso Valdambrini Quintet are one of my favourite European jazz combos, along side the Gigi Campi  session groups in Cologne. This recording, with its mixture of standards and Oscar Valdambrini compositions, is considered an Italian Jazz ‘pearl’, recorded in Milan, Italy in 1970. Despite this, I couldn’t find a word written about this album anywhere, so a first.

Gianni Basso is a wonderful tenor player, hear the selection Donna Lu after the heads, when Gianni starts to let those fingers fly over the keys, elegant and complex phrasing and timing, he mixes the speed and pace,  the melody and changes infiltrated by triplet-figures and rests, so you are always off balance never knowing what’s coming next, but it always comes together, landing on his feet. Contrast some big-name  tenors where the thinking is so predictable, you know exactly what’s coming next, perhaps that is what their followers like. (Name names LJC! Ok, throw caution to the winds, some won’t like this but – Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz?)

Oscar Valdambrini  piquant descending harmonies, the piano comping accents, the whole cloth,  so uplifting. If you don’t know Quinteto Basso Valdambrini and vintage Italian Jazz, go listen…

Basso-Valdambrini 5: Walking in the Night (1960) RCA Italiana (Victor Jp 1994 re)

Basso/ Valdambrini Sextet: Exciting 6 (Italy, 1967) Dejavu (2006)

LondonJazzCollector knows no boundaries, it’s all jazz.

Vinyl: Dejavu DJV 2000049 – 1st issue 2009

Many other Basso-Valdambrini titles were issued originally in the 1960s on various Italian labels  –  RCA Italiana, Jolly, Fonit, and Dischi Recordi: 
This session saw its first release in 2009 by Italian “reissue label” DejaVu, and joins a half dozen other Basso-Valdambrini titles. These Dejavu titles are a little lacking in dynamics compared with original vinyl editions. They are issued in both CD and vinyl format, and no claim is made regarding remastered from original tapes, so suspicion falls on digital sources. However, originals are virtually unobtainable whilst Dejavu and inexpensive good quality pressings and widely available.
Gianni Rossi Studio cover design, the photo: Basso is listening carefully, holding the beat, sitting out while Valdambrini takes the lead, awaiting the reunion. Nice black and white sympathetic portraiture, great composition, triangulating faces and instruments.
“It was important to me, to keep the strong sense of the Italian Modern Jazz feelings of those times alive, also in the cover artwork and the packaging. This is the reason I decided to use original vintage photos of the band by Riccardo Schwamenthal.”

Schwamenthal, born in Vienna but living in Bergamo, Italy, photographed visiting American jazz artists from Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington to John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk when in Milan and elsewhere in Italy. 


Collector’s Corner

Compare and contrast the trumpet – Oscar Valdambrini and Miles Davis

You don’t have to choose, you can have both, I have.


Excellent article by DGMONO, in case you hadn’t caught it, original research, mastering session for Tone Poets, from original tapes, DGMONO In Person, with Kevin Gray and Joe Harley at Cohearent Audio – outstanding first-hand account.

Luck of the draw, a lot of the forthcoming Tone Poets are not on my wants list, I have them as originals already, but don’t let me stop you.

I auditioned and decided against Mobley’s Curtain Call. No bigger fan of Mobley than me but the session is too early, 1957 I think, the leadership drifts, is it really a Sonny Clark album? Mobley needed another few years to season his playing. 

Jackie Mclean’s Tipping The Scales has also come in for a degree of criticism. I already have it.

Forthcoming Tone Poets:

Pacific Jazz Gerald Wilson Moment of Truth 1962
Blue Note BLP 4172 Freddie Hubbard Breaking Point! 1964
Blue Note Kenny Burrell Kenny Burrell 1956
Blue Note BLP 4132 Grant Green Feelin’ The Spirit 1962
Blue Note BLP 4138 Harold Vick Steppin’ Out 1963
Blue Note BLP 4244 Bobby Hutcherson Stick Up! 1966
Pacific Jazz Chet Baker & Art Pepper Picture of Heath 1956
Blue Note BLP 4228 Blue Mitchell Bring It Home To Me 1966
Blue Note BLP 4060 Donald Byrd At The Half Note Cafe, Vol. 1 1960
Blue Note ScoLoHoFo (Scofield-Lovano-Holland-Foster) Oh! 2000

Hubbard’s Breaking Point is the only title that excites me. I have a rubbish West Coast non-Van Gelder Liberty remaster, very dull,  and a bit of Kevin Grey magic could revitalise this session. The Harold Vick title is a quandry. I have a Japanese pressing but it is bland and  lacking ooomph,  Is there a chance Kevin Gray can reanimate it?


5 thoughts on “Basso / Valdambrini Quintet: Stella By Starlight (1970) DejaVu 2009

  1. You should reconsider your judgement of Curtain Call. It’s not his best album, but it’s very good. I agree that Mobley reached his peak in the early 60’s with Soul Station, Roll Call and Workout, and that he sounds more sure of himself on those recordings as well as the later recordings. But on Curtain Call, he has almost found his sound, in contrast to earlier albums that are considered collector trophies. Curtain Call has Mobley on a similar stage as Poppin’, only that it’s a more relaxed affair. We get the pairing of Mobley with Dorham, whom Horace Silver described as “super hip” together. They may have made better albums together, but this is still very strong. Pairing them with Sonny Clark was a really good idea. Mobley recorded five sessions with Clark, all very good, but Dorham only this one.

    Regarding the leadership: why do you get the idea that Mobley isn’t leading? It’s a typical Blue Note album, where the leader provides most of the compositions, but the group is the star, and everyone gets a chance to shine. Mobley was an introvert, he wasn’t a strong band leader in the sense of keeping a working group together, but he could tailor his compositions to his sidemen.
    Do yourself a favor and get it on vinyl, so you can fully judge its glory. Furthermore, a Mobley album needs repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Not because it’s too complicated to understand, but because it’s too subtle to get everything at once.
    Yes, his later albums are better, but don’t you always preach that we need a varied diet, and should not just listen to the best recordings? You even reviewed “Reach Out!”, so Curtain Call is worthy of your money and time, trust me!


    • Good choice of name, Baron. Igor – more power. . . now plug in the saxophone
      “Curtain Call” is not released here in UK until April 29, a week away, plenty of time to form a more considered judgement , I checked some pre-release samples from tracks, which didn’t overwhelm me, but you make a convincing case to give Hank a second hearing.


      • Haha! That name is actually how Dexter Gordon called Mobley. Glad to read that you will give Curtain Call another chance. It’s not overwhelming indeed, but it swings very pleasantly, while still containing a serious groove that many of the relaxed west coast jazz recordings lack. I’m curious to see what you will decide.


  2. Thank you for another fine post, yet again about a noteworthy band that is new to me.

    (I may be misunderstanding something but…..Although Adderley does not appear on “Stella by Starlight,” 1958 MILES was by the great sextet – Davis with Coltrane, Adderley, Evans, Chambers and Cobb. The “first great quintet” was Davis, Coltrane, Garland, Chambers and Jones, modified and expanded to a sextet with Adderley. The “second great quintet” was Davis, Shorter, Hancock, Carter and Williams.)

    1958 MILES should be of interest to anyone that loves the “KIND OF BLUE”sextet with Coltrane and Adderley. Released in 1974 it was a compilation album that paired Side 2 of JAZZ TRACK with the recordings from LIVE AT THE PLAZA. (Side 1 of JAZZ TRACK contained the recordings Miles made for Ascenseur pour l’echafaud). The 1958 sextet recordings are some of the greatest jazz recorded not only in that year but in jazz history, even with – or despite – the less than stellar recording quality of the live tracks.

    Though I agree with Richard Cook (“It’s About Time” Oxford University Press) that Miles made some extraordinary music during each and every one of his phases, with each of these bands, I have less enthusiasm for some of the music by the second great quintet, such as that appearing on E.S.P. – none the less I have collected virtually all of the studio albums, expecting to eventually “grow” into each of them.

    I have never heard a saxophonist refer to his keys as “valves,” that term being reserved for the device in brass instruments, such as the trumpet – although the largest saxes do indeed have a “spit valve.”


    • 1958 line up, Adderley not credited, so a quintet on that track, but not THE quintet, with Red Garland, my confusion. Thank you for the corrections, noted and updated. Saxophones have keys not valves, quite right too, I only ever played guitar: “strings”


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