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(50:53, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Vadapianov 7:17 2. Bagnaseo 8:12 3. Babinia 5:58 4. Cantico 6:55 5. Hybris 6:38 6. Olio Su Tela 6:21 7. Oltraggio 5:23 8. Kamasutra Gong 3:56 LINEUP: Michele Zavar – bass; vocals Francesco Piraino – guitars Matteo Dalla Pozza – sax Stefano Bellar – drums
Prolusion. Here is the Italian outfit LITAI, presenting its self-titled debut release.
Analysis. The CD booklet says that one of the musicians, Michele Zavar, sings besides playing bass. Well, seven of the eight tracks on “Litai” have episodes with narrations, some of which appear as artistic, but there are no full-fledged vocals on the album. As to the music recorded here, I see it as a tightly arranged mixture of classic Jazz-Fusion and guitar Art-Rock (completely avoiding the influence of the symphonic variety), with some of the pieces being a bit more on the jazzy side and vice versa regarding the others, which are occasionally experimental in addition within an avant-garde art-rock framework. Yes, the album is stylistically uniform, albeit disc opener, Vadapianov (the only purely instrumental piece here, whose title brings nothing to mind but the last name of a Russian pilot, a hero of the World War II) is melodically somewhat brighter than the others. At times it sounds like Soft Machine or cooks like ‘80s King Crimson or even floats like The Alan Parsons Project-when-with-Mel Collins, the latter feature the one that distinguishes it from the other compositions, above all such as Bagnaseo, Cantico, Oltraggio and Babinia, the last of which is in turn the sole piece here that has a standard, swing-based jazz rock move – thankfully, a short one. Hybris, Olio Su Tela and Kamasutra Gong all occasionally hint at King Crimson circa ’74, otherwise sounding very much like (of course) the first three of the tracks that are named after the opening one in the previous sentence, at least in terms of composition and style. The dominant lead instruments are Francesco Piraino’s guitar and Matteo Dalla Pozza’s saxophone, though the bassist gets in a few good licks. Francesco is a player of quite solid technical dexterity, with a hard-edged style along the lines of Robert Fripp (and, sometimes, early Allan Holdsworth) rather than the fluidity of Ian Bairnson. The saxophonist’s playing is particularly impressive, however, a bit reminiscent of both Theo Travis and the aforementioned Collins – think mainly Mel’s workouts in King Crimson, though. Unison leads are rare, besides which they’re in all cases balanced by Stefano Bellar’s dynamic, often almost atonal drumming. None of the players is concerned with virtuosity for its own sake, but all of them manifest a passion for a diverse musicianship, creativity and the assimilation of their influences – albeit not always with success as regards King Crimson’s. On the other hand, it’s also obvious that they are frequently working in very original territory.
Conclusion. “Litai” is probably the best 2012 debut and is the best jazz fusion-meets-art rock album I’ve heard this year. Fans of both Soft Machine and King Crimson looking for something new should be the first to pay attention to it.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: September 7, 2012
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