|Paolo Fresu. Photo credit: Svickova / Creative Commons|
Review: My Jazz Islands Festival with Paolo Fresu
(12th Nov 2014, Pizza Express Jazz Club. Review by Alison Bentley)
The My Jazz Islands Festival brings jazz musicians from Britain and Sardinia together, with concerts on both islands. This gig was the third night of this year’s sold-out London festival, and also the CD launch of Scaramouche (Incipit Records INC 189), with music written by guitarist Giorgio Serci and lyrics by singer Filomena Campus, both of whom have made London their second home. Fellow Sardinian, the renowned trumpeter Paolo Fresu was on the line-up for this closing evening too.
Campus and Serci opened with Primavera. Their CD has a Brazilian theme and they were joined by Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale, evoking Spring with bird whistles and rustling shakers. Serci has composed radiant, memorable melodies for the recording, played on nylon-stringed guitar, which he underpins with strong resonating bass notes. As Campus sang the tune wordlessly in unison with the guitar, there was an atmosphere of real warmth. At times we could have been listening to Egberto Gismonti and Nana Vasconcelos. The album is partly a tribute to Brazilian Hermeto Pascoal and the convoluted, nimble and joyful Hermetico (in 7/8) took strands from his compositions. There was an Airto Moreira moment when Adewale found unimaginable sounds in his tambourine, and his huge grin of enjoyment matched the audience’s. Campus’ fantastical lyrics added to the mood. The trio setting left lots of space to hear the subtleties and dynamics of her voice- the harmony lines with the guitar were particularly beautiful. Lyrics were significant: for Round Midday, Campus had reworked a wry poem about an encounter with a beggar, by Beat Poet Jack Hirschman.
Two pieces dedicated to the late, much-missed Kenny Wheeler marked the first appearance onstage of Paolo Fresu. One of Kenny Wheeler’s very last recordings is on the Scaramouche CD, plaintive and distinctive, recorded in his home. Paolo Fresu took that role in Momentum at the launch gig. Fresu has talked in the past about the importance of ‘going inside the music’, and he played from the heart, with long ethereal notes and punchy utterances, earthing it all with bluesy phrases. Orphy Robinson joined them, his vibes blending subtly with the darting melody. Wheeler’s Everybody’s Song But My Own came in the second set- it’s not on the CD but was a sincere tribute here. Enzo Zirilli sat in as second percussionist as Robinson’s vibes blurred into amazingly fast chromatic lines.
Free jazz played its part all through the gig. Robinson and Fresu opened the second set with a duet of mysterious bell sounds and delay effects on the trumpet, Fresu’s phrases coming back to him like a reflection. Campus’ background is in the theatre, and Scaramouche is a character from the Commedia Dell’Arte, often, appropriately, depicted with a guitar. The eponymous song brought out Campus’ rich lower range over the bass drum sound of Adewale’s calabash and burnished cymbal accents. Some of the most striking moments were where the climactic sounds dropped right down to solo guitar for a while- the arrangements had a strong dramatic sense. Campidano was especially appreciated by audience members from that area of Sardinia. Its delicate melody (the CD version has strings arranged by Serci) was reassuring and acted as a familiar reference point in the freedom of the solos. Campus’ voice could be harsh and disturbing or deep, breathy and soothing- an huge range of truly improvised vocal sounds. It was if she’d held something back for this moment, and the others followed her. The simple chords allowed for great complexity in the rhythm- vibes like a marimba, trumpet crooning over Adewale’s percussive vocal sounds.
An evening of warmth and Sardinian love of life: melodies that ran through the head long after the gig, free jazz, improvisations with the shape of a theatrical performance, and music to lift the spirits on a wet November evening.