Aktè is a self-titled project led by oud maestro Elias Nardi. Although taking its name from the Greek goddess of pleasure, eating, and rest, the music of heeds the call of such itinerant paths that the association feels more theoretical than practical. Despite the obvious pleasure with which this Italian quartet renders its moods, almost none of them conjures images of careless recumbence. Even the meditative “Armenian Song” of Gurdjieff that occupies the program’s center, chambers a restless heart, beginning on land but ending in water.
Most of the album consists of in-house originals, opening with “Brise.” This embrace of oud, accordion (Fausto Beccalossi), and baritone guitar (Claudio Farinone) journeys as much within borders as between them. Emerging from this delicate flower, the trailing insect of a soprano saxophone (Max Pizio) returns to the hum of its hive. Between the delicacy of “Albaicin” and invigorations of “Dimitrish,” Nardi and friends exercise restraint in their balancing of points and lines.
Nardi’s “Flowers of Fragility” is a thematic standout, and like its surroundings is strong enough to hold its own alongside some powerful traditionals. Macedonian tunes “Jovano Jovanke” and “Proseta se Jovka Kumanovka” are both arranged with fullness of color, while “El Noi de la Mare,” from the Iberian Peninsula, brings us to a close with a smile.
Worth noting is the production, which glistens by virtue of having been recorded at RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera in Lugano. Its crystalline acoustics allow each instrument to convey a spiritual respect for the past even as it sets a precedent by its apolitical cohesion. What we’re left with, then, is a message for the future inked in the here and now. - Tyran Grillo
More about the ensemble