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Anagramma - 2007 - "Anagramma"

(49:48, ‘Terre Sommerse’)



1.  Peggio di Un Blues 4:36
2.  Savana 8:15
3.  Sabbia 8:21
4.  Uragano 4:26
5.  Broadway Uptown 4:16
6.  Chiuso per Ferie 7:56
7.  Alghe 7:08
8.  Algarve 4:48


Stefano Pantani – guitars
Fabiano Lelli – bass, guitars 
Daniele Iacono – drums; keyboards
Fabrizio Fabiani – bass 
Gianni Colaiacomo – bass 
Paolo Lucini – flutes (2)
Paolo Innarella – sax (5)

Prolusion. Led by guitarist and songwriter Stefano Pontani, ANAGRAMMA is a contemporary Italian outfit, two of its three basic participants, Stefano himself and drummer/keyboardist Daniele Iacono, being members of the legendary band Ezra Winston (which, despite any rumors to the contrary, still didn’t disband, at least officially). The hero of this occasion is the self-titled debut Anagramma album, though one more Ezra Winston-related creation, Vu-Meters’ “Dark City”, has been examined for this update: click here to read the review of it.

Analysis. I didn't believe my ears when I began playing this disc. While I expected to hear something in the vein of Ezra Winston or at least something that would be similar to that band in style, i.e. Symphonic Progressive, I’ve instead met up with a classic jazz-fusion production in reality. Stefano is credited as the primary mastermind behind this creation, so it turns out that he is a versatile composer and musician whose horizons aren’t limited by to particular direction. That being said, his bandmates, Daniele and bassist/guitarist Lelli, have fluent knowledge of the genre’s canons, too; both match him well in mastery as players, additionally shining with resourcefulness as arrangers. In the end, the talent of all three of the men is equally obvious in their ensemble work and in their improvisational leads. On “Anagramma” Stefano appears as an apprentice-in-absentia of both Allan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny, combining the (originally different) devices of those guitarists with his own approach to playing the instrument. Another comparison, though far less obvious, would be David Torn at the beginning of his solo career, i.e. in the mid-‘80s. The majority of the eight tracks on this all-instrumental recording are very interesting, frequently finding the musicians building complicated constructions and then wriggling along through those. Five of the pieces, Peggio di Un Blues, Uragano, Alghe, Algarve and Sabbia, have a good deal in common between them in terms of both composition and arrangement. Repeatedly providing sophisticated chord progressions, Stefano dominates almost everything over each of the first three of these, blending his shimmering, clean electric sound with the intricate bass and drum work, infrequently giving Fabiano’s bass solo spot, while on the latter two he often shares the spotlight with Daniele who shines there as a drummer and a keyboardist alike. Daniele’s electric piano passages on Sabbia and Savana are particularly impressive, occasionally bringing to mind the names of Alan Pasqua and Lyle Mays (keyboardists for Holdsworth and Metheny, respectively). Unlike the other two pieces that fall out of the recording’s predominant style, the last named one begins, unfolds and finishes quite much in the same vein as the first three tracks described do, only sounding different within its two, successive, mid sections. The first of those is marked with the appearance of a guest flute player and the music there bears an almost purely symphonic character. Soon, however, the listener witnesses the striking stylistic as well as dynamic contrast, as the band suddenly accelerates its pace, at once entering the realm of impromptu Jazz Rock with the electric piano as a (kind of) ringleader of this highly eclectic jam. Now texturally dense, now relatively transparent, Savana is generally very rich in dramatic transitions: perhaps the most progressively saturated track here. Basically, Broadway Uptown most often sounds somewhat like a cross between Allan Holdsworth at his least jazzy (think “IOU” or “Metal Fatigue”) and King Crimson’s “Discipline”, and it’s only a guest saxophonist who imparts a distinct improvisational feeling to this piece. Finally Chiuso per Ferie is the sole track here that disappoints, despite featuring some refined acoustic guitar passages. Upon the first spin it may come across as a full-blown jazz-fusion composition, but in reality it’s quite a groovy, basically bi-thematic piece, sounding pretty much the same over all 8 minutes of its length.

Conclusion. A very good effort as it is, and without the last described opus “Anagramma” would have been an excellent album. The band offers truly creative Jazz-Fusion, and if this genre is part of your musical bill of fare, don’t hesitate to add the CD to your collection: recommended!

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: May 12, 2009
The Rating Room

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