Live review

Maria Chiara Argirò meets Dugong at Jazzlive at the Crypt, Camberwell (2019 EFG LJF)

Maria Chiara Argirò meets Dugong
(Jazzlive at the Crypt, Camberwell. 2019 EFG LJF. 15 November 2019. Review by John L. Walters)

The Italian musician Maria Chiara Argirò is a jazz pianist, composer and bandleader whose work is always infused with structure and a strong sense of tone colour. She’s an elegant stylist with substance. For this gig on the opening night of the London Jazz Festival, Argirò combined forces with fellow Italians Dugong, a quartet comprising founders Michele Caiati (guitar) and Nicolò Ricci (tenor saxophone) plus drummer Riccardo Chiaberta and bassist Andrea Di Biase, who also plays in Argirò’s usual band, which I reviewed at Love Supreme in 2016.

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Maria Chiara Agurò and Dugong (Drawing © Hamley Jenkins)

The programme featured seven of Argirò’s compositions and two Dugong originals: Let the Good Be Good and the ironic (one hopes) Musicanoiosapergentetriste [‘boring music for sad people’] which you can hear on Dugong’s 2018 album The Big Other.

The evening began with Argirò’s Beneath The Surface (from her current album Hidden Seas), a slowly rippling theme that gradually builds to a moving climax. (The album features idiosyncratic vocals by Leila Martial, but happily Argirò’s themes function equally well as instrumentals.) Nautilus picked up the pace and featured fine solos from Caiati and Ricci, ending with an uplifting anthem in 5/4.

Caiati’s guitar sounds gives the line-up a distinctive edge. His judicious use of effects pedals help some passages soar into space; his solos are rock-inflected but never overbearing. Argirò’s synth interludes and piano ostinatos have a hint of Mwandishi-era Herbie Hancock and even prog rock, but they complement the ensemble sound – more elegantly tailored Italian suit than greatcoat.

Highlights of the second set included the catchy and intense Wandering Iceberg and the closing Oceana. This was prefaced by an intricate and engaging drum solo by Chiaberta, whose backline playing with Di Biase was a joy throughout the gig. Di Biase’s arco bass on Starlight was another highlight. You could call this a kind of European ‘chamber jazz’, benefitting from musical civility and freedom of movement (in every sense). However the ensemble always pulses with energy, aided by an excellent sound mix typical of the Crypt.

John L. Walters is an editor, composer, producer. On Instagram and Twitter as @JohnLW

Hamley Jenkins has a website and is taking part in a group show at the Bussey Building, 7-8 December. 


Maria Chiara Argirò – Piano/Synths/Compositions


Michele Caiati – Guitar

Nicolò Ricci – Tenor Sax

Andrea Di Biase – Double Bass

Riccardo Chiaberta – Drums

Set list

Beneath the Surface (MCA)

Nautilus (MCA)

Sea Song (MCA)

Let the Good Be Good (Dugong)

Watery Universe (MCA)

Musicanoiosapergentetriste (Dugong)

Starlight (MCA)

Wandering Iceberg (MCA)

Oceana (MCA)

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