This is a remarkable CD from an Italian singer who is certain to make waves in the coming years. Luisa Cottifogli has a powerful, well-trained voice and an ear for the vocal music not only of her native Italy but also from around the world. Without a hint of pirated fusion or ambient new age-ism, she incorporates rhythmic vocal styles from India (where she studied voice), African folk (the title is Senegalese for 'sleep, little one') and jazz idioms into her original songs and makes them seem natural and at home in the Italian landscape where this recording finally and defiantly exists.
Cottifogli has a colorful voice, trained in opera and early music, but equally at home with the open and aggressive folk style so important in Italian traditional music. This is a difficult combination to create and control, but she does it with youthful abandon and makes it work.
A great singer needs a great band, and Cottifogli has assembled one to reckon with. Guitarist Gabriele Bombardini and percussionist Matteo Scaioli hold Cottifogli's complex arrangements together. Cellist Enrico Guerzoni and harpist (Celtic and Jew's harp) Fabio Tricomi offer more than just the usual "color" associated with these instruments in contemporary music, and incredible performances
are turned in by accordionist Simone Zanchini, who understands both the classical conservatory style and the deeper folk roots of the Mediterranean. Together they create a swirl of music that is stylistically unclassifiable; alternately lush, madcap or devotional; concurrently jazz, folk and avant garde. The final member of the group is video installation artist Gian Luca Beccari, whose work can be seen (too little, I think) in the accompanying Quicktime video on the CD.
Cottifogli's songs are carefully constructed from a world of elements, yet they are all of a piece, a Mediterranean exploration that never settles for the obvious, whether it is the mix of Indian-tinged scat singing and accordion riffs generated on "An Italian In Bombay" or the Brecht-inspired "Peddlars," a swirl of Viennese waltz and Italian café punctuated with insane accordion lines and some very aggressive drumming. The title track works from an African vocal grunt into a Senegalese lullaby and then a lush jazz ballad. "Alamò" is a traditional tuna fisherman's work song, but here it utilizes the ensemble's full complement of musical tools, from a gentle Jew's harp and tabla opening to a full-throttle folk song where the tarantella meets raga meets free jazz, without ever losing the driving Italian dance rhythm.
The album's subtitle, "I come from the North, but I am from the South," reflects Cottifogli's nativity (she is from the Alps, daughter of a Slovenian speaking mother and a southern Italian father), but more importantly, her philosophy; she is an urban, modern musician whose creative heart is sitting by the sea, looking out on a world of ideas, always anticipating one more journey east, west or south. - Cliff Furnald
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