Edmondo Romano - Sonno Eliso and Missive Archetipe
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Edmondo Romano has the listener's imagination in mind. Floating somewhere between the meticulousness of Anouar Brahem and the melodic integrity of Tim Story, his sound world is a curious and rewarding mixture. Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu once described that world as "a limitless musical patchwork [with] no geographical or territorial frontiers." In this sense, one might paint him as an ethereal artist, composing out of place and out of time. More accurately, he nurtures a cinematic quality that lends itself to the projection screen of an open mind: the images may be reducible to nothing more than tricks of light and shadow, but their actors are very real. In fact, Romano has a long relationship with the theatrical stage and brings that same sense of movement and spatial awareness to everything he touches.
Romano's magnum opus is a projected trilogy, of which the first and second parts are subjects of this review. Sonno Eliso stretches a web of instrumental combinations among 11 supporting musicians. Despite any conscious sense of dislocation in the music, one may easily pick up on North African influences alongside European classical and jazz elements. The album's evocative title track, meaning "Elysium Sleep," is like the famous torii gate of Japan's Itsukushima Shrine, which seems to float at high tide, ocean indistinguishable from sky. Its mélange of soprano saxophone and electronic beats, along with a handful of classical chamber instruments, welcomes a world of poetry and light.
Sonno Eliso concerns itself with the interrelationship of masculine and feminine principles, as signified by its thematic tracks, "Canto di lei" (Theme of her) and "Canto di lui" (Theme of him). Both are methodical and, in a sense, the most neutral of this chamber opera, serving a professed interest in balance. Other sections are dynamic and captivating. Romano's santur playing in "Corpo" (Body) prefigures a lively clarinet, and comprises one of a handful of corporeally concerned tracks, including the duduk-infused "Fiato" (Breath), an album highlight, and "Intelletto" (Mind), a duet for soprano and bassoon.
Other tracks, with titles like "Transfigurazione" (Transfiguration) and "Risonanza" (Resonance), are more metaphysical in nature, mixing piano, cello, tabla, and winds. The only non-original music comes in the form of "Preghiera" (Prayer), a traditional Turkish melody that joins oud, soprano saxophone, bass, frame drum, and piano. Here as throughout, the music travels, fashioning two acres of new landscape for every acre of old it traverses.
Missive Archetipe realizes the heart of Romano's trilogy. Here the theme is language as a means of storytelling and communication, a thread of breath through history. (The final album will tie the first two together by means of religion.) The album charts the development of humanity, from communion to pollution. Blending folk, jazz, and classical impulses in a seamless whole, its texts include a verse from Catullus, a traditional Italian song, a poem by Rumi, and another by Auschwitz survivor Charlotte Delbo.
"Il giardino degli animali eterni"
As with Sonno Eliso, there is a real sense of moving through time. Different, however, is the sense of space, which is more concentrated and immediate. Gone are the resonant tails and echoing waters. In their place one encounters an earthier patina. The birth of humanity blossoms forth in "Petali de carne," takes on the faculty of language in "Parabola," and journeys toward the Edenic "Il giardino degli animali eterni" with sole purpose: to evolve.
Romano employs more singers this time around, lending a chorus of them along the overgrown pathway of "Ahava" and, significantly, eliding them where they might be most expected, as in the old lullaby "Ninna nanna," which sings through clarinet instead. Missive Archetipe also explores deeper territories of the human experience, as expressed through drones ("Dato al mondo") and narration ("Carme" and "Di questo amore morite"), thus embodying its themes in the flesh. Romano's soprano soars above it all, high and knowing. It is the sagacious force of these melodies, each more probing than the last.
Romano is very much the complete artist, overseeing all aspects of production and direction in the composing, arranging, and recording of this project. He even directs and edits a music video for each album, which one can access by putting the CD into a computer. The end effect of his prodigious efforts is a lack of awareness of them, for his conceptual foundations never get in the way of the music itself. These albums harbor no hidden agendas, but lay their cards for all to see, without the need for exposition. - Tyran Grillo
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