Riccardo Tesi and Banditaliana - Maggio

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Riccardo Tesi and Banditaliana
Artist release (www.riccardotesi.com)

Riccardo Tesi always escapes easy pigeon-holing. He is idiosyncratic without being abrasive, cutting edge without the hard edge. He is a gentle fusionist, bringing together new and old worlds so that's it's hard to know where one starts and the other ends. On Maggio, his latest with Bandtaliana, the sound is vintage Tesi: a refinement of traditional music that has the well-aged, heartfelt soul of folk music, but is as assuredly lovely as a classical wind quartet. Underneath the overall gentle spell that Tesi casts are shades and layers of sophistication.


"Valzers" begins with an ethereal round of vocals and a melancholic solo clarinet accompanied by hand percussion, but soon gives way to a lovely set of waltzes that gets literally jazzed up, even channeling Django Reinhardt in one subsection.


"Rosamunda" starts with the oompa beat and melody of "Roll Out the Barrel," guest-starring the Fanfara Tirana brass band (made up of members of Albania's military) marking out the bouncing polka beats with light and dexterous ensemble playing, before taking off into a series of tunes.


The wistful "Merica" features the soulful singing of Maurizio Geri and the gorgeously understated mournful sustained notes of Tesi's organetto; played against a diaphanous instrumental backdrop and a spare but swinging hand-slapped percussion.


"Corno D'Africa"

"Corno D'Africa" brings out an African facet of the band, putting Geri's expressive voice against a big, vivid backdrop that is familiar and new at the same time. The polyrhythmic reimagining of Italian regional music is as enchanting as it is unusual. Tesi closes with the autumnal instrumental composition "Pietrasecca," which unfolds like rolling hills under the waning light of sunset.


Maggio is another strong, easily like-able album from Tesi a guiltless pleasure for music that is at once simple and sophisticated. The wonder is that his amiable soulfulness is not more widely appreciated. - Marty Lipp


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