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John Patitucci: 'Opera' Without Voices

Opera places such a high premium on voices that it seems inconceivable to have one without them. Bassist and composer John Patitucci's mesmerizing "Scenes from an Opera," however, evokes opera's suspense and grandeur while eschewing obvious stereotypes — even doing away with vocals altogether.

As the song opens, Patitucci's legato melody on arco bass conveys a vocal quality, but he soon navigates to the background, ceding the lead voice to Joe Lovano, who varies the same melody on alto clarinet. An incredible dialogue ensues, as Lovano begins departing from the melody while Patitucci improvises contrapuntally in back and drummer Brian Blade embellishes the song with dynamic rhythmic textures. Along the way, cellist Sachi Patitucci makes a few phantom-like appearances, but Blade ultimately takes the lead in a euphoric display of tension and release.

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John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.