Picture of the Bignami Veltri Jazz Ensemble's Epitaphs from the Hill album cover.

Review: “Epitaphs from the Hill” by Bignami Veltri Jazz Ensemble


The jazz landscape is often fertile ground for unique and boundary-pushing collaborations. One such endeavor that stands out is the recently released EP titled “Epitaphs from the Hill” by the Bignami Veltri Jazz Ensemble. Comprised of compositions by Anna Bignami and Laura Giulia Veltri, this cross-disciplinary project explores the intersection of music and poetry while delving into the human experience through the lens of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology.”

A Musical Exploration of Poetic Epitaphs:

The heart of “Epitaphs from the Hill” lies in its inspiration drawn from Edgar Lee Masters’ iconic collection of poems, “Spoon River Anthology.” This anthology, published in 1914, unveils the hidden stories of the inhabitants of Spoon River through epitaphs, revealing their unvarnished truths after death. The jazz ensemble takes on the challenging task of translating these profound narratives into musical form.

The EP opens with “In and Out of the Toy World (Through Dippold’s Lenses)” by Laura Giulia Veltri. Clocking in at 10 minutes and 45 seconds, the composition immediately immerses the listener in a captivating sonic journey. The saxophones introduce a sense of melancholy and introspection, intertwining with delicate piano phrases. The arrangement mirrors the complex emotional landscapes encapsulated in Masters’ poetry.

Following the first track, “This is I, the Giant” by Anna Bignami takes the listener on a 13-minute exploration of the self. The piece unfolds with a sense of mystery, gradually building into dynamic and layered musical conversations among the ensemble. Bignami’s composition skillfully captures the essence of introspection and self-discovery present in the original source material.

A Stellar Ensemble Performance:

The Bignami Veltri Jazz Ensemble is a group of outstanding musicians who bring depth and nuance to their compositions. With instruments ranging from saxophones, clarinets, and flutes to trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, and drums, the ensemble lineup reads like a who’s who of the Danish jazz scene. The chemistry of the ensemble is palpable as they handle the complexities of the works with precision and emotional resonance.

Sebastian Zawadzki’s piano work is a standout feature, providing both a harmonic foundation and moments of improvisational brilliance. The wind section, including saxophones and clarinets, weaves intricate melodies and textures, painting a vivid musical landscape that complements the lyrical themes of the EP.

The Ensemble Musicians:

The Bignami Veltri Jazz Ensemble’s seamless performance is a testament to the musicians’ individual virtuosity and collective synergy. The ensemble includes:

Kati Brien (Alto sax, clarinet, soprano sax)

Johan Toftegaard (Alto sax, clarinet, flute)

Niels Vincentz (Tenor sax)

Jacob Rønne Danielsen (Bari sax and Bass clarinet)

Jakob Sørensen (Trumpet and Flugelhorn)

Tobias Stavngaard (Trombone)

Sebastian Zawadzki (Piano)

Matthias Flemming Petri (Bass)

Daniel Sommer (Drums)

Each musician contributes to the EP’s distinct atmosphere and emotional resonance, crafting a cohesive narrative that captures the essence of Masters’ poetic tales.

Conveying Deep Emotions Through Music:

“Epitaphs from the Hill” accomplishes something remarkable—it translates the emotional depth and complexity of poetry into a musical language that resonates profoundly. The compositions are more than just adaptations; they are interpretations that capture the essence of Masters’ poetry while allowing the musicians to infuse their own creative voices.

Anna Bignami and Laura Giulia Veltri’s compositions strike a balance between structured arrangements and moments of improvisational freedom. This approach mirrors the duality of the human experience—structured and predictable at times, yet capable of unexpected moments of expression and revelation.

Epitaphs from the Hill” by the Bignami Veltri Jazz Ensemble is a captivating exploration of the human condition through the lens of music and poetry. The EP masterfully translates the poignant narratives of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology” into a jazz soundscape that is at once introspective, emotive, and thought-provoking. With its intricate arrangements, stellar ensemble performance, and rich emotional depth, this EP stands as a testament to the power of artistic collaboration and the enduring resonance of great poetry in the realm of music.

As listeners embark on this musical journey, they are invited to reflect on their own hidden stories, confront their buried emotions, and find solace in the shared human experience that transcends time and artistic forms.


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