It is never easy to pay tribute to pieces that have become rock icons by interpreting them in a jazz key – unless your name is Max De Aloe. Borderline is a project that the artist has accomplished with his Max De Aloe Quartet, trying to (and succeeding in) knocking down the barriers that too often divide different music genres and styles.
The outcome is an album that leads listeners into a warm, enthralling musical journey characterized by a sweeping musical spectrum.
The tracks reinterpreted by the quartet, indeed, range from the anguished Smells like teen spirit by Nirvana (whose jazz reinterpretation by no means deadens its tense edginess) to the schizophrenic See Emily play, which reflects Syd Barret’s madness and that of the early Pink Floyd through a syncopated rhythm that can only be found in a jazz ride led by a piano that Roberto Olzer plays with insane mastery.
The seven tracks making up the album smoothly flow one into the other, almost in a whirlpool of sounds and images that are meant to tell about the insanity of art and its constant underlying tension.
Every single track has been rearranged with the specific intention of never betraying the original piece, but, rather, conveying its pure essence in a different way. Olzer’s piano duets with, and skilfully supports, De Aloe’s chromatic harmonica, while Marco Mistrangelo’s double bass and Nicola Stranieri’s drums create the perfect rhythmic setting for each track to take flight from and come back to, as softly as a feather.
The album also features the lovely All Apologies (also by Nirvana) and the relaxing Black And White, where the quartet magnificently shows its strong inclination for improvising.
Listening to Borderline by the Max De Aloe Quartet is like diving into a parallel universe where any borders between music and art dissolve completely, leaving the listener floating in a warm sea of notes, sounds and colors.