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Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana
Thapsos
Dunya (www.felmay.it)

cd cover At the forefront of Italian roots music, melodeon wizard Riccardo Tesi continues to forge a seamless, erudite hybrid of folk, jazz, classical and Eastern influences whose majestic virtuosity defies category. An irrepressible optimism runs through the work of Banditaliana, whose talented core includes Maurizio Geri (voice, guitar), Claudio Carboni (soprano saxophone) and Ettore Bonafè (percussion), with a host of superb guest singers and instrumentalists. With nothing to prove but much to impart, Tesi sets out with an eponymous dedication to kindred spirit and Malagasy valiha master Justin Vali, wherein Tesi's lilting melodeon invokes the vital pulse of Madagascar's expressive traditions in a song alluding to the emotional price emigrants always pay in leaving the land of their birth.

Listen!
"Justin"
(MP3)
Listen!
"Scirocco" -excerpt
(MP3)
"Scirocco," a driving allusion to the desert winds that course through Tesi's work, prepares the ground for the title track, an extension of the Eastern flavorings audible in Thapsos. The 6/8 swing of "Espresso" marshals an eclectic palette that will tantalize the ears of fans of Klezmer and Turkish music (with the dizzying clarinet of Gabriele Mirabassi) and the accordion-based forró music of northeastern Brazil.

Preceded by the spirited chant of "Baccalà, Baccalà," a deserving miscreant's mordant condemnation, "Carnevale" captures the abandoned, irreverent soundscape of the topsy-turvy festival of social inversion that marks winter's welcome passing throughout Catholic Europe:

Laugh, laugh Carnival, all jokes are allowed
Confetti and caviar, poverty be damned
Burn, burn Carnival, burn all the bad things
Make a bonfire with debts and bills

"Penombre" is a shadowy, evocative instrumental blending of melodeon, soprano sax, guitar and tabla, while "Fammi Ballare" is a graceful but insistent waltz, a poetic inducement to dance whose epic, careworn voice finds anchor in Bonafè's swaying percussion and Agostini's thumping electric bass. Switching gears again, "Aria" presents a reflective duet between Tesi's wistful melodeon and Damiano Puliti's fine cello work.

Listen!
"Waltzer Largo" -excerpt
(MP3)
"Valentino" presents a snappy, light-footed 2/4 weave of Tesi's orchestral melodeon, Ettore Bonafè's lilting vibraphone and Maurizio Geri's nimble guitar against Puliti's cello and Davide Mencarelli's acoustic bass. "Largo Waltzer," a slow waltz true to name, is a bittersweet paean to the elusive character of the human condition, in another exquisite exploration of the singular folk-jazz chemistry of Banditaliana's melodeon, guitar, vibes, and cello.

Co-written with French mandolinist and composer Patrick Vaillant, a long-time Tesi collaborator, "Capelli Neri" plunges into gypsy jazz terrain after the break, with Tesi, Geri, Gabriele Mirabassi (clarinets) and Carboni each paying homage to the hovering spirit of Django Reinhardt. Heading out, Tesi illustrates once more the depth of his musical conception, blending the complementary tonal colors of melodeon, guitar, soprano sax and Bonafè's celestial vibes. Cut from a luxuriant tapestry of sound, Thapsos stands as a sublime work whose each new listening reveals nuances previously unheard. - Michael Stone

Available at cdRoots:

All audio is from the CD Thaspos
© (p)2001 Felmay. Used by express permission


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