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(53:43, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Camel Trouble 5:16 2. Quaenova 5:12 3. Le Chat Noir 4:14 4. Chansis 6:46 5. Axidents 6:32 6. Night Bell 5:34 7. 900 Bills 4:21 8. Karizma 3:58 9. Wake up with Me-II 8:38 10. Everyone Can Sing 2:43 LINEUP: Alessandro Caldato – keyboards (+vocals – 10) Andrea Massarotto – saxophone (+flute – 6) Giacomo Girotto – el. guitar Stefano Volpato – basses Riccardo Pestrin – drums With: F. Perin – trumpet (7, 8) M. Barbon – sax (8)
Prolusion. MAGNETIC SOUND MACHINE (MSM for short) is a modern jazz-fusion quintet from Italy. “Chances and Accidents” is a follow-up to its debut album “Chromatic Tunes” from 2008. It was released last year by the band’s native recording company Lizard Records (my favorite Italian label for quite some time already).
Analysis. This 54-minute album is not merely a considerable step forward compared to its predecessor, but is one of the best creations of classic, vintage-style, Jazz-Fusion I’ve heard in ages. Musically, it possesses everything necessary to please even the most exacting fans of the genre, myself included – think high-class musicianship, intriguing thematic development, engaging melodies and complex yet totally integrated arrangements, where there’s just no place for anything spontaneous, let alone random. The CD consists of ten tracks, eight of which are in all senses outstanding compositions, albeit some of those a bit better suit my taste than the others, due to my personal preferences within the genre. All played up-tempo (at least for the most part), Camel Trouble, 900 Bills and Karizma are musically rooted deep in the ‘70s, with hints of such varied artists as Soft Machine, Secret Oyster, Return To Forever, Allan Holdsworth and Brand X, though I think the Italians combine classic jazz rock features with progressive ones in a more distinctive manner, not in equal proportions. There are fewer sections with unison leads-based arrangements than those with diverse, large-scaled ones. Even within the most conventional moves it never happens that one of the musicians would introduce a theme that the others would slowly embrace in third, etc, variations. High energy abounds on each of the pieces, almost throughout (the pace eases only at times, if not occasionally), as it also does on Quaenova, Le Chat Noir, Axidents and Wake up with Me-II. These four are all striking for their compositional tightness and, at the same time, performance diversity, the music being created in such a way that every band member appears as the main soloist. Almost all of the time, the musicians play all together, and yet the separation is always distinct, so I can clearly hear that a bass, guitar, sax, drums and keyboards (now electric or acoustic piano, now organ, now – obviously analog – synthesizer) each develops its own, different from the others, part. Okay, there are moves that might seem to be driven by guitar or piano or sax leads, but, at least after a few subsequent listens, you’ll hear how at once diversely and resourcefully both the bosses of rhythm section work at the very same time. Real ensemble playing is one of the main calling cards of this fine outfit. The Four-in-hand is perhaps better than anything by ‘70s Brand X or Secret Oyster, if these parallels are ever possible. The point is that this music is near-endlessly changing, covering a variety of ideas, revealing pleasant surprises almost at every turn, and the fact that there are no distinct melodic themes (to which the band could return, for instance) makes it good for a lot of repeated listens. Real progressive Jazz-Fusion, the compositions are gems, avoiding any comparisons. Chansis seems to be equally compelling, at least at the moment, albeit it is not impossible that I’ll find it to be a winner after another spin, since it strongly varies in pace and structure alike. Night Bell is a mellower affair, yet still a progressive piece overall. However, I’m somewhat perplexed by the two repetitive moves there – those where the flute sounds not unlike a harmonica, the instrument that progressive music needs as much as a fish needs an umbrella. Anyhow, it is only the short last track Everyone Can Sing that has really pushed me to deny the album a complete masterwork status. The only ‘song’ here, it features a duo of a male and female, who vocalize in unison over the plain piano theme, simply repeating the motif three times running. Generally speaking, everyone can sing as they do, indeed.
Conclusion. If you are really into progressive Jazz-Fusion, put this album at the top of your list of upcoming CD acquisitions. The makeweight will in no way affect your overall feelings about it. It’s a must have. Top-20-2010
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