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REVIEW: Young Jazz from Italy on the Barbican FreeStage (2018 EFG LJF)

Givanni Guidi’s DRIVE! at the Barbican
iPhone snap by Alison Bentley

Young Jazz from Italy:
Enrico Zanisi + Francesco Diodati “Yellow Squeeds” + Simona Severini + DRIVE!
(Barbican FreeStage. 18 November 2018. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Alison Bentley)

The sun was shining on the lake outside by the Barbican FreeStage but the audience was soaking up the warmth from the Italian music inside. Families from around the world were picnicking on the carpet round the stage; small children were fascinated by the bands.

Enrico Zanisi’s solo piano set, from his album Piano Tales, created a special mood with his impressionistic classical influences, then rock-inflected Monkish quirkiness in Uma Historia. Each hand developed a different time feel, the right hand scribbling playfully over the ostinato left. , was slow and beautiful, as if he was communing with himself. The melody of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most was stalked by dark stabbing chords and unexpected harmonies. Saxophonist Francesco Bearzatti (each band’s special guest,) brought a piece of his own for a duet, with hints of Piazzolla. He sounded like a tenor Gabarek to Zanisi’s Jarrett in the latter’s meditative Inno (Hymn) . They created a quiet space that reached an impassioned pitch.

Francesco Diodati’s Yellow Squeeds couldn’t have been more different. Two tracks from their new album Never the Same brought a primordial groove to a sleepy Sunday afternoon. Zanisi stayed in the piano seat, this time for a volcanic solo on a Steve Coleman-esque avalanche of funk rhythms in Here and There. Dissonant chords resolved and dissolved in seconds. Cities was earthed with organic grunts from Glauco Benedetti ‘s tuba, and chattering rimshots from Enrico Morello. Diodati’s guitar veered from rock strumming to Hendrix-influenced bends and angular sharp-edged phrases, duelling with Francesco Lento’s free trumpet. In his intro to a new piece (Simple Life) Diodato blended rock and jazz chords the way Scofield does, but with highly original voicings sprinkled with sizzling harmonics. A lurching groove felt like being on a rolling deck at sea, smoothed by long trumpet notes. Casa do Amor (adding Bearzatti) linked familiar chords in an unfamiliar way, gorgeously dissonant on a rock groove. The band seemed to be doing something new- it could be cerebral, but it’s played with strong emotion.

Simona Severini

Calm after the storm: Simona Severini’ voice was as warm as Eva Cassidy’s; she sang in Italian, plunging from high to low, and fortissimo to pianissimo, in a moment. She sometimes looped breathy sounds as intros, but mostly played her own carefully-crafted accompaniments on electric guitar. Come Sei Bello clustered the words together against the Latin groove. Another song had a jazz-soul timbre, like Lianne La Havas. Songs by Italian songwriters (Cosa Resta, Il Mondo) were sung in a more traditional Italian style, with dramatic vibrato. Bearzatti guested again, this time on klezmer-influenced clarinet, in a haunting version of Purcell’s Ah Belinda, I am prest from Dido and Aeneas. Severini gave a modern twist to Monteverdi (Si Dolce e’l Tormento) like Joni Mitchell transported to the Renasissance. Severini created her own atmosphere with her amazing variety of vocal tones and unusual repertoire.

Giovanni Guidi has previously been involved in Enrico Rava’s soundscape at the 2016 LJF (reviewed), and has made impressionistic jazz piano trio recordings for ECM (also reviewed). This electric trio DRIVE! (a pun on Guidi’s surname?) transported us to a different place. Cymbal rushes (Federico Scettri) and bass echoes (Jon Rehmer) recalled In a Silent Way. Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, developed- a country rock version like Bill Frisell’s, but with simmering Fender Rhodes rather than guitar. The slow, powerful backbeat punctuated the open spaces of Guidi’s playing, with its bursts of blues and distorted overtones. The groove disappeared as the massive drum solo (shades of Eric Harland’s thundering sounds) ricocheted off Guidi’s pulsating notes. The pieces merged into each other, (Paul Motian’s It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago was in there somewhere) as Diodati and Bearzatti came onstage for some gentle, spacey funk. Horn melodies grew from the full-on rock feel. Then a simple township-like melody had the crowd singing along, as Lento and Severini joined the band. With young musicians like these, you felt the future of Italian jazz was in good hands- and the audience loved it.

Categories: Live reviews

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