Album reviews

Ettore Fioravanti Opus Magnum – ‘Attraverso Ogni Confini’

Ettore Fioravanti Opus Magnum – Attraverso Ogni Confini
(Parco Della Musica Records MPR136CD. Album review by Sebastian Scotney)

There is more than a hint of gentle self-mockery here. “Opus Magnum” is the slightly ironic name for a band which is a compositional vehicle for the characterful Italian drummer Ettore Fioravanti.

For those in search of a bit of fun, the best place to start is the second track, this group’s instrumental take on a classic knockabout political song, with lyrics by the legendary Dario Fo, and sung in the original classic version from 1968 by Enzo Jannacci, “Ho visto un re” (I have seen a king). It really is no mean feat to have captured the barbed humour of the original so well, while leaving every single one of the great Fo’s massively powerful words to the song unsung or unshouted. (Video below).

All of the other compositions are originals by Fioravanti, and they cover a range of moods. Fioravanti’s compositions were previously featured on a superb 2006 Blue Note album, Thinking, by the Paolo Fresu 5et [sic]. On this new one we have Fioravanti’s regular core quartet with Marco Colonna (clarinet and bass clarinet, baritone sax), Igor Legari (double bass), Andrea Biondi (vibraphone), plus two guests Francesco Fratini (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Filippo Vignato (trombone).

The common and consistent features of Fioravanti’s writing, in that great 2006 album as now, are firstly that all the tunes have catchy melodic lines, and secondly that with Fioravanti’s drumming there is always a very strong sense of pulse. The languorous three/four time of “Volskov” is irresistible with its echoes of “Dancing in the Snow” from Nino Rota’s score for “Amarcord”. Totally earworm-ish in the Rota-ish manner. Later, Fioravanti gives us a masterclass in shuffle rhythms in “San Diego”.

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There is a message in the titles here. Many of the compositions are named after places on or near frontiers – “San Diego” or “Gibilterra” (Gibraltar) – and the principle being asserted here is that freedom of movement across borders, particularly North-South borders is normal and natural. And borders are also metaphors. As Fioravanti explains in the sleeve note: “there is a permeable boundary between wisdom and folly, love and hate, coherence and contradiction, and each one of us calibrates the point of transition from one position to the other differently.”

The compositions, presumably patiently crafted during the pandemic, are very neatly turned and imagined, and the desire to have them recorded is not just understandable but thoroughly justifiable. I do have a couple of reservations about this disc, however. Whereas it was clearly necessary to get the recording done, I couldn’t help feeling as I listened that there are instances where the performance comes off the boil. Maybe the producer needed gently to suggest a cup of strong coffee – there is no shortage of cafés near the Parco della Musica where the clear and well-balanced recording was made – and maybe doing another take with a bit more oomph to it, particularly in the solo sections. I also wondered – having heard reeds player Marco Colonna on his solo album from 2020, Fili – whether he is not rather more obviously energised and at home these days in the freer environment. Fili, with all its looping, multiphonics, reed slaps and sound experimentation, seems to better suit him than the more workaday activity of fitting in as a voice doing justice to Fioravanti’s sophisticated and well-crafted part-writing.

That said, Attraverso Ogni Confini is a nice example of the unleashing of compositional endeavour from a fine musician. And it is always good to be reminded that people trying to impose borders are insidious in their methods and de-humanising in their aims – I will always remember former French Justice Minister Christian Taubira’s take on this subject (LINK). It is a message which cannot be repeated often enough.

LINK: Attraverse Ogni Confini at Parco Della Musica Records

Magnum Opus (quartet) live

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