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Esperti Project
Le Voyage d'Hannibal
Eclectic Art Records (

"I will either find a way, or make one." These famous words are attributed to Hannibal, son of Hamilcar Barca and Carthaginian commander of the First Punic War (264-241 BC). The proverb also applies to the sonic paths taken by Andrea Esperti, whose eponymous trio project sonically re-imagines the legendary military leader's travels.

Andrea Esperti "When I was young I studied the history of Hannibal and Rome," recalls the Italian trombonist and composer in our email interview, "and I immediately appreciated the courage, strength, and will of this man. No one would have thought he could win against the strongest empire in the world. His accomplishment therefore goes beyond historical fact. It's an encouragement to realize our dreams and overcome obstacles."
Antonio Esperti

Joining Andrea for this journey is his brother Antonio Esperti, a formally trained musician versed in the traditional music of Italy. He plays duduk, clarinets, and recites original poetry inspired by Hannibal's cartographic sweep.

Luca Fusconi

With them is Luca Fusconi, a veteran circuit-bender who holds the narrative together with his spacious electronics.

For Andrea Esperti, a musician at ease in classical and jazz repertoires alike, the spirit of collaboration is paramount. Despite having composed all but the final piece, he characterizes the group as a purveyor of "world" music, welcoming a range of influences to a stage where figures known and unknown may once more stretch their muscles. Andrea elucidates the dynamics therein: " Antonio is a traditional Mediterranean musician. I studied classical and modern music but have felt it necessary to put myself in the line of tradition, following values of life, authenticity, and purity. Luca has been further involved with the theatre company at Italy's Teatro Valdoca. I felt a need to pull all of these elements together: the future through electronic music, the present through improvisation, and the past through traditional music."

In light of this, we do better to experience Le Voyage d'Hannibal as both a deconstruction and preservation of history. As its winds pass through Maghreb, Andalusia, and beyond, picking up motifs and impulses along the way, the music leaves a trail of deep soundscapes for us to follow. Andrea say, "Le Voyage d'Hannibal is a musical and emotive journey around the Mediterranean Sea. Like life, it's a circle that redraws itself without end."

Despite the fascinations of the project's instrumentation, Antonio's texts are the most striking element of "Kartajen" (Carthage), which comprises the first leg. Antonio, who is also an ethnomusicologist, delivers his words in the dialect of Brindisi, a onetime Greek settlement in the heel of Italy's boot that became a major port of trade for the Romans after the Punic Wars. His images chart movements of time and color over a collage of shells, bells, and splashes of electric melody. Flanged hand drums give purchase, the clarinet its voice of reason, all wrapped around Andrea's breathy incantation.

Influences, witting or not, may strike the seasoned listener at unexpected moments. The voice of Jon Hassell looms large through Andrea's infusions in "Jabal Tariq – Iberia," Luca the mirage to Antonio's desert. Field-recorded street noise meshes with evocative beats all the while as the "Alpes" loom large on the horizon. This dance of danger is a collage of birdsong, footsteps in snow, words and breath. It is also the clearest expression of Hannibal's harrowing advance into Italy by way of the seemingly impassable mountains. This portion of the album sits somewhere between the nu-jazz of Nils Petter Molvær and Lionel Marchetti's ambient gem Portrait d'un Glacier.

The final leg of Hannibal's journey delivers us to "Apulia" (Puglia) on a droning carpet. Here duduk and clarinet provide the heartbeat to a military march. Light modal touches lend a Middle Eastern feel, reaching frenzy before diffusing in cricket song. The words are most alive here, waxing as they do about fatigue, war, and the consummation of bodies and landscape. If these four of the album's five pieces seem elemental, that's because Andrea intended them that way, moving from earth ("Kartajen") and water ("Jabal Tariq") to air ("Alpes") and fire ("Apulia").

The solo "Variazioni per Surdulina," then, ends with a standstill in this travel through time. The surdulina, a Calabrian bagpipe, springs to life in Antonio's hands, his notes glittering across a hillside like childhood toys yielded by erosion. The layered, split voicings nevertheless hint at a journey yet to come. "Music is music," as Andrea Esperti is fond of saying, and it is this he and his allies will continue to follow on their own quest. - Tyran Grillo

You can hear more music, and read more on the Esperti Project web site

Further adventures:
An interview with Mimmo Epifani
A review of Enzo Favata's Voyage En Sardaigne

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