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(75:32 / Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Gravita 9,81 4:34 2. Strips 4:26 3. Corrosione 1:30 4. Positivo / Negativo 3:40 5. In Cammino 6:14 6. Valzer Per Domani 4:12 7. Miraflori 5:53 8. Nove Lune Prima 0:56 9. Mescali / Mescalero 2:36 10. Nova Lune Dopo 1:06 11. Aria Pesant 4:10 12. Dimensione Terra 3:52 13. Kawasaki 6:11 14. Glory 2:44 15. Marilyn 5:24 16. Arcensiel 3:53 17. Alba Mediterranea 4:37 18. 2000 9:23 LINEUP: Beppe Grovella - keyboards, pianos Alfredo Ponissi - saxophones, flute Marco Roagna - guitars Furio Chirico - drums Lautaro Acosta - violin Roberto Cassetta - bass; backing vocals Iano Nicolo - lead vocals; percussion
Prolusion. While clearly realizing that ARTI E MESTIERI (AEM from now on) is one of the most renowned progressive bands to come out of Italy, I must confess it is difficult for me to find out which of their numerous outings are studio albums, and which are live releases, since my prior exposure to AEM stops after their first two LPs, "Tilt" (1974) and "Giro di Valzer per Domani" (1975). Nevertheless I would continue their list of studio recordings as follows: "Quinto Stato" (1979), "Acquario" (1983) and "Murales" (2000). As for this arrival, "First Live in Japan", it was recorded at the Citta Club in Kawasaki during the band's 2005 Japanese tour.
Analysis. The first five and the next seven tracks here form the Tilt and the Giro Di Valzer Per Domani suites respectively, being performed in the same order they are presented on the group's first two LPs, each of which is internationally regarded as a classic. For those who still aren't familiar with Arti E Mestieri, their sound is usually energetically saturated, powered by Furio Chirico whose drumming is simply fantastic and is very often furious indeed (as if serving to justify the musician's first name), stylistically varying not too much, from orthodox Jazz Rock to a blend of jazz-fusion and symphonic structures, though this particular set contains two pieces which don't completely blend with any of the idioms. Some of the band's newer creations, Kawasaki and Marilyn both stand out for their classical-like acoustic piano patterns, the former featuring no other instruments besides the piano, while on the latter the piano leads interact with (intense) drum solos and (mellow, yet distinctly jazzy) saxophone trills, creating a picture that is pleasingly contrasting on all levels. The short Nova Lune Dopo features only vocalizations, vibes and bass. Another brief cut, Corrosione, has a full-band sound, which though is both smooth and delicate throughout. The four tunes featuring lyrical content, namely Strips, Aria Pesant, Alba Mediterranea and Glory, are all among the very best symphonic jazz-fusion creations with vocals I've ever heard, the first three fitting well the album's predominant style, which I will come to shortly. Though involving only vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, Mellotron and (occasional) percussion, Glory has a good deal in common with UK, mainly due to the strong resemblance between Iano Nicolo's vocals and John Wetton's. The rest of the material includes eleven instrumentals and can be divided into two categories. Gravita 9,81, Arcensiel and 2000 each represent a confluence of Jazz-Fusion and Symphonic Progressive with a really perfect balance between improvisational and structured melodic passages. If I were prompted to find any reference points, I would say it's like The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever and Brand X jamming with Kansas and UK, the violin work being now reminiscent of Jean-Luc Ponty, now of Kansas's Robbie Steinhard in approach. Positivo / Negativo is similar, but the piece's symphonic component is directly linked with Adriatic folk music. Nove Lune Prima and Mescali / Mescalero follow each other, both abounding in vocalizations and generally coming across as one monolithic composition. That being said, traditional sympho-prog lovers will find no shelter from avalanche-like improvisations which are the core of each of the remaining four tracks, In Cammino, Valzer Per Domani, Miraflori and Dimensione Terra, even though there is no lack of unison moves either. The band very rarely slows down, but when they do, the results are equally fascinating.
Conclusion. Like most of the progressive rock units born during the heyday of the genre, AEM have always had their own voice, rooted in the free spirit of the era. This release is simply a brilliant collection of live numbers, eighteen musical messages from a really huge band, most of which are delivered off the reel, with genuine passion and fire. Jazz-Fusion lovers shouldn't miss this CD, unless they own most the band's significant releases, including at least one of their previous live albums.
VM: October 3, 2007
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