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Italian Showcase at the 2022 Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

Italian Showcase
(Assembly Roxy, The Jazz Bar. 23 and 24 July 2022. Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

  Federico Calcagno Dolphians. Photo credit: Giuseppe Flavio Pagano

This year the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival had a mini-festival of six concerts featuring either Italian groups or collaborations between Italian and Scottish musicians. The Italian scene is in the process of recovering from the pandemic and is fostering a number of distinctive groups. My discussions with musicians and organisers led me to the conclusions that whereas Italy has a strong festival scene, its year-round, city-based touring circuit is in need of more development.

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The bands appearing showed a willingness to explore the legacy of the late 1960s on the Blue Note label as well as more contemporary developments in the music. Federico Calcagno Dolphians – as the band’s name implies – take the music of Eric Dolphy as their inspiration with a line-up that features the leader on bass clarinet plus vibes, two saxophones, bass and drums.  The repertoire consisted of a number of original pieces inspired by Dolphy’s Out To Lunch album, and this plus the excellence of the solos made this a fitting tribute to Eric Dolphy and, more generally, the new music of his generation.

Archipelagos is a quintet led by drummer Francesca Remigi; it makes good use of electronics and the wordless singing of Claire Parsons (from Luxembourg) to create an attractive blend of various genres, jazz, rock, electronica. The ensemble passages had lots of energy and variety, but somehow the individual solos were disappointing.

L-R: Gianluca Zanello, Ferdinando Romano, Tommasso Lacoviello.
Photo credit: Giuseppe Flavio Pagano

Ferdinando Romano’s Totem is clearly a regularly working band that has recently brought out an album also with the title Totem; the album featured American trumpeter Ralph Alessi as a special guest. The music presented in their set in The Jazz Bar had many of the characteristics of contemporary European jazz with compositions influenced by contemporary classical music, and folk themes, especially from the south of Italy. The latter gave the group a distinctive character, subtly Italian, rather than strongly so. The compositions were quite melodic, but occasionally angular, and the excellent solos from Tommasso Lacoviello on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gianluca Zanello on saxophones and Manuel Magrini on piano fitted the mood of the compositions very effectively. The leader also acknowledges an influence from the compositions of Kenny Wheeler.

The final set of the programme was due to feature a trio led by pianist Sade Mangiaracina, but she was unable to travel as a result of Covid, so her bass player Marco Bardoscia and drummer Francesca Remigi were joined by Scottish pianist Alan Benzie and Italian trumpeter Daniele Raimondi. The latter had appeared earlier in the festival separately with saxophonists Konrad Wiszniewski and Matt Carmichael. This set turned out to be one of those occasions, seemingly only possible in jazz, where players who have not previously performed together spontaneously create something very special indeed. The music always seemed on the edge and about to collapse, but it never did, much to the credit of the skill of the musicians. They began by improvising freely, but using boppish language and with Benzie feeling his way in. Then just at the right moment they moved into a composition by Bardoscia named after the hot winds that hit the south of Italy; this also had a touch of Italian folk music that had been a feature of the earlier set by the Totem band. Other tunes by Benzie, Monk and Rimondi followed, again with free-ish interludes as the players found their way from one to the other. This was a fine and exciting set to conclude the programme.

There was a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as I recall, when Italian jazz was quite prominent on the European circuit; bands such as The Instabile Orchestra, the Gianluca Trovesi Octet and the Carlo Actis Dato Group are examples of bands that became well known. It was good to have this opportunity to become aware of a new generation of bands and players.

Tony Dudley-Evans was a guest of I-Jazz and the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.  This Edinburgh programme was supported by I-Jazz and the Italian Institute. 

LINK: I-JAzz in Edinburgh

Categories: Live reviews

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