Available at cdroots.com

Alessandra Belloni
Tarantata: Dance of the Ancient Spider
Sounds True (www.soundstrue.com)

cd cover Alessandra Belloni's music is the ultimate dichotomy: earth-based feminism mixed with Catholic iconography. With wild abandon, she mixes the mystical healing rituals of the tarantella with chants in adoration of the Virgin Mary. Her fearlessly passionate mezzo-soprano, with its rich, deep vibrato is an acquired taste, but one worth acquiring. Her fervor for the music sometimes
"Ave Maria di Montserrat"
threatens to run away with her technical accuracy, but this can be forgiven in light of the dynamism of her performances. Her incredible technique on the tambourine elevates this simple instrument into something sublime. She receives some very capable help on this release from guitarist John La Barbera, percussionist Glen Velez, flutist Steve Gorn, violinist Joe Deninzon, and accordionist Charlie Giordano. An uncredited female vocalist contributes some ethereal harmonies with a reedy soprano reminiscent of Maddy Prior's. The harmonies are at times as close as a Bulgarian women's choir and at other times as open and spacious as Gregorian chant.

As one would expect from Belloni, there is the usual assortment of rapid-fire, heart-pumping tarantellas here, but she also includes a couple of pieces inspired by her travels in Brazil. "Canto di Sant'Irene" is full of churning Bahian rhythms. "Inno al Brasile" combines Brazilian Indian chant with samba, bossa nova, and cavallo marino rhythms.

One must admire Belloni's unabashed juxtaposition of earthy eroticism and goddess/virgin worship. Tarantata is feminist music at its best, without the preaching. It's frankly sensuous and brilliantly performed. - Peggy Latkovich

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