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(70:35, MoonJune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Zorn a Surriento 4:49 2. Caldo Bagno 7:31 3. Mangiare 5:40 4. Errore di Parallasse 5:58 5. Ne Carne 4:02 6. Ne Pesce 4:32 7. Dammi Un Besh O 6:13 8. CO2 3:57 9. Sono Tranquillo Eppure Spesso Strillo 4:44 10. Canguri in 5 5:44 11. Tilde 8:43 12. Sig M Rappito dal Vento 8:53 LINEUP: Marcello Giannini – el. & ac. guitar Pietro Santangelo – sax; vocals Domenico Angarano – bass Stefano Costanzo – drums Riccardo Villari – violin Ludovica Manzo – vocals Derek Di Perri – harmonica With: Ugo Santangelo – ac. guitar (8) Marco Pezzenati – vibraphone (3) Giovanni Imparato – percussion; vocals (2)
Prolusion. Yet another CD that I received without a press kit, “Hubris” is an album by the Italian band SLIVOVITZ and is supposedly their second release. Slivovitz – originally Sliwowitz – is a plum liqueur, which was invented by Sudet (Slavic) Germans, some of those bearing the matter as their last name. Pretty soon the drink gained popularity among all the other East European Slavs, or, to be more precise, those who live in the region’s western segment, outside the one belonging currently to the CIS. By the way, Manfred Mann’s real name is Michael Lubowitz, and he – as well as Fritz Randow (former Eloy drummer), Karl Brullow (famous XIX Century artist), Shimanski, Lebovski, Leibnitz… – also hails from the Sudet land, located in the southeast of Germany.
Analysis. The music of this Italian ensemble refers to several different sources, none of which seem to be directly linked with their aboriginal culture. It quite often combines Jazz-Fusion of a classic, US/UK, pattern with Balkan and Latin-American folk motifs, plus occasionally reveals African ethnic tunes. All this makes me suppose that either some of the musicians themselves – above all those whose first names are Ugo, Ludovica and Derek – or their ancestors originate not from Italy, albeit it doesn’t matter much, of course. What’s really significant is that the album is overall a highly enjoyable musical journey, only one of the routes/tracks of which, Sono Tranquillo Eppure Spesso Strillo, turned out to be free of surprises, at least in progressive terms. Despite what its title suggests, it has no tranquil feeling, but is a powerful, sonically dense and multicolored piece, with loads of vocals. Since it’s additionally rhythmically pronounced, plus seems to feature a mixed choir of several singers (albeit only 3 are credited), it comes across as a little jazz-rock musical. Don’t take me wrong, though: it is not a bad creation; it’s just too straight and predictable, compared to the other eleven compositions presented, none of which are abundant in singing, moreover. Although it would be safe to notice that Caldo Bagno (which is much to my liking, overall) has multiple vocals as well, those only appear within the track’s first and sixth movement, both of which paint a picture of an African savannah with a tribe singing and dancing in a ritual ring to the beats of congas or something similar. Stylistically, it perfectly suits the above idiom, as – minus the African motifs – do Zorn a Surriento, Dammi Un Besh O and Mangiare as well, the acoustic guitar (save the disc opener) often figuring as prominently as the electric one, bass, drums, saxophone and violin. The first two of these are also multi-sectional compositions, frequently varying in theme and pace. The only one to feature vibes, the latter is a mellower piece, and yet, it also pleases the ear throughout. The band plays in a fine, totally structured style, which reminds me of a complex crossover between mid-‘70s Weather Report, Jean-Luc Ponty, Oregon, Soft Machine, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Kansas and mid-2000s Balkan Horses Band (which means it’s actually largely original). However, as regards the other compositions, Errore di Parallasse, Ne Carne, Ne Pesce, Tilde, CO2, Sig M Rappito dal Vento and Canguri in 5 – all of which are either largely or purely instrumental – I’d list the bands strictly in a reverse mode, and – save the latter piece – without the last of those. (I think East European tunes, let alone Latin American ones, might seem to be spread almost everywhere on the album, because three of the five tracks featuring them are the ones that it begins with.) On the last three of these, the acoustic guitar plays even more a significant role than on the three mentioned above, and, when it teams up with the violin, the comparison with Kansas is inevitable, to my mind. Axeman Marcello Giannini, violinist Riccardo Villari, saxophonist Pietro Santangelo, bassist Domenico Angarano and drummer Stefano Costanzo are all masterful as well as highly inventive musicians. I only wonder why a harmonica player, Derek Di Perri, is credited as a full band member, since the instrument only appears as the album’s curtain falls. Finally, one more remark: you see that one of the songs seems to hold a hint at John Zorn’s work, but I’d better refrain from commenting on this, as I’m only familiar with the artist’s jazz-metal and Jewish folklore-related creations.
Conclusion. Overall, Slivovitz plays Jazz-Fusion of a genuinely progressive nature, most of the time avoiding standard jazz tricks. Even Sono Tranquillo Eppure Spesso Strillo, while being comparatively straightforward, is not something trivial, far from it, and has its charm. “Hubris” is probably the most cohesive and properly progressive jazz-rock-related release I’ve met with this year. Highly recommended!
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