Ada Rovatti – Green Factor (2009)

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by S. Victor Aaron

The tenor and soprano saxophonist Ada Rovatti is a rising star in the contemporary jazz arena; a Berklee School of Music grad who hails from Italy, she’s performed with such jazz heavies as Joanne Brackeen, Miroslav Vitous, John McLaughlin and Randy Brecker. She’s appeared on Brecker’s Grammy winner 34th N Lex, as well as McLaughlin’s Industrial Zen. After three well-regarded releases of her own (included one backed by her funk/jazz/Latin band Elephunk), Rovatti returns this month with The Green Factor.

To be sure, Rovatti’s brand of jazz fusion borrows some tricks from older associates like Brecker and McLaughlin…the tight arrangements, the shifting harmonics, the funk sensibilities and those spiky unison lines. But Green Factor avoids being a “me too” 21st century fusion record in a lot of different ways.

For starters, Green, which was produced by Rovatti herself, avoids all the faddish touches that would date it quickly and lacks any slickness that would make it veer too close to smooth jazz territory. It’s electric jazz, but there aren’t any synthesizers, programmed beats or sampling within a country mile of it.

Secondly, Rovatti is one of those rare and refreshing up and comers who has mastered the the post-bop style of past masters with a well-formed technique, and yet not sounding so much like a knockoff of any of them. She understands that it’s not just about having the tools to do the task, it’s knowing which tools to use at the right time. In other words, she can blow both hot or cool, but does so at the appropriate times.

However, the last aspect of Green Factor that sets it apart from run-of-the-mill fusion records is that Rovatti approached this record with a particular mission in mind and executed to perfection. And that mission was to coalesce Celtic and Irish folk forms into challenging fusion jazz.

Rovatti employs a base group of herself, Christian Howes (violin), Janek Gwizdala (electric bass), George Colligan (piano, Fender Rhodes) and Obed Calvaire (drums). On some cuts, she’s brought in her old mentor Brecker to supply some trumpet, as well as Adam Rogers (electric guitar) and Ivan Goff (bagpipe and pennywhistles). If I didn’t already tip you off that this record is a blend of American and Celtic music, the instrumentation line-up clearly would have.

The songs all possess some sophisticated harmonic structures; even the three traditional Irish songs on here (“The Kerry Dance,” “Danny Boy,” “Wild Colonial Boy”) are livened up with some creative modern arrangements. That creativity extends to the old standby “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” a song that has been covered a trillion times, but Rovatti converts the song into a snappy, insistent tune that leaves still leaves plenty of room for her, Gwizdala and Colligan to stretch. Meanwhile, Calvaire is ripping it up on the drums just underneath.

There are also six originals by Rovatti and they blend in among the old covers without any problem. In fact, it’s evident from some of these self-penned songs, such as the title cut “Green Factor, “The Untold Story” and the gentler “Peter Pan” that Rovatti has done her homework on Celtic folk music, successfully grafting elements of the old style into modern, electric jazz. “Your Highness,” dedicated to Brecker, combines folk-dance with bop, affording Rovatti, Howes and Colligan a chance to show off their chops within the more traditional jazz realm.

There’s a couple of tunes that stay entirely on the American side of the equation; the aforementioned “Rainbow” is one. “I Lost My Wisdom” sports a mean blues-rock riff and Adams (another up-and-comer to keep an eye on) provides some good and gritty guitar work to match.

With this new release, Ada Rovatti shows that she’s not just a talented musician content to play it safe and make run-of-mill fusion records (although she could do quite well going down that path). She is experimenting with her music and pushing herself to the far limits of her skills. This is a talent worth listening to now and watching for in the future.

Green Factor just went on sale March 1.

Ada Rovatti’s website

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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