Stefania Arcieri Ensemble : Views – Shapes & Hues of Some Impressions
(Out Front Records OFJR1601. CD Review by Jane Mann)
This is Italian composer/singer Stefania Arcieri’s debut CD as band leader, with an impressive line-up whose members all lead bands in their own right. Nathaniel Facey – alto sax and Shane Forbes – drums have played together in various bands since meeting through the Tomorrow’s Warriors scheme a decade ago, most notably in their acclaimed band Empirical. Gareth Lockrane is on flutes, and on piano, Barry Green. Maltese guitarist Sandro Zerafa is currently based in Paris, where he has a quartet, and is the go-to guitarist for Brazilian music. Italian Dario Di Lecce – bass, like Arcieri, trained at the Conservatorio Niccolò Piccinni in Bari, before moving to London in 2012. He played with the Eugenio Macchia Trio in Italy and plays in various bands in London, including his Hard Bop Quartet.
Arcieri herself uses her voice like an instrument, taking solos, improvising, alone and in combination with other players in the band, as well as singing the songs. Her singing style includes scat with some very acrobatic phrasing, as well as a softer, sometimes ethereal, more Brazilian style. The Stefania Arcieri Ensemble are very much an Ensemble, with Arcieri often not taking centre stage but appearing as a member of the band.
Half of the ten tracks are original Arcieri compositions, the others are her arrangements of tunes by some of her jazz heroes: Bill Evans, Mal Waldron and Horace Silver. The influences of these composers and Kenny Wheeler, another hero, are apparent in her work. The other two songs on the CD are by Brazilians Francis Hime & Ruy Guerra and Eduardo Gudin & Costa Netto. Arcieri has a particular talent for Brazilian music, and her singing in Portuguese is flawless.
Arcieri’s tunes include an arrangement of a tune called Sospeso which she was originally commissioned to write for a fifteen piece ensemble. There are no lyrics included with the CD which is a shame, as I would have liked to know what she was singing about so sweetly. Her compositions appear to be fairly tightly scored, but they allow plenty of space for the musicians to solo. Lockrane plays some very fine, inventive solos on this track, the bass flute making a nice pairing with Arcieri’s voice. Her big jazz tune is Montreux, dedicated “to Bill and Kenny” which showcases Green’s virtuosity. He also provides imaginative gentle piano on the lilting, delicate Views, as well as a subtle accompaniment to the Hime & Guerra song Minha. Zerafa and Lockrane evidently enjoy the Brazilian tunes, with suave and melodic playing. Gudin & Netto’s Verde is a delight, with Zerafa’s beautiful bossa nova guitar, and Green inhabited by the spirit of Jobim at the piano, the whole propelled along by authentic and sensitive bass and percussion, and Arcieri as Brazilian chanteuse.
Di Lecce gets his show stopper solo at the beginning and end of Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes. The piece starts with the bass, then builds up as Arcieri joins in, then Lockrane in a charming trio between bass, flute and voice before Facey adds his perfectly placed sax. And is there a more enjoyable drummer currently in London than Shaney Forbes? Throughout this CD he demonstrates skill, sensitivity, invention and swing as required. He drives Horace Silver’s Jungle Juice along, urging on the rest of the band, who all play extremely lively solos. Arcieri says “The music of this recording is sincerely very precious to me and the musicians involved are simply wonderful artists who led my music to a whole new level”.
The CD is the first release on the new London label Out Front . The Stefania Arcieri Ensemble is live at the Vortex on Tuesday 11th July 2017.