Posts Tagged ‘free jazz’
Back in the Seventies the existence – and the significance – of a politically engaged, militant jazz could have been pretty obvious in the States, or Africa, or elsewhere outside Italy, but certainly not here, where traditionalist and stiff connoisseurs audiences regarded it rather as a wicked contamination with earthly matters.
Gaetano Liguori – a classicaly trained pianist and composer – was among the first italian jazz musicians to address directly “the heavy human condition of destitutes, deviants and oppressed people at every latitude”, as this record’s liner notes read, bringing jazz to the revolutionary masses by playing thousands of gigs at factories, schools, universities, squatted places and pop festivals.
I signori della guerra (“the lords of war”), credited to his Idea Trio, came after their controversial debut album Cile libero, Cile rosso (“free Chile, red Chile”), and kept on the same path, combining free outbursts with quieter and atmospheric piano tunes and folk hints. The combo featured Filippo Monico on drums and Roberto Del Piano on bass.
Here is the tracklist:
01, I signori della guerra
03, Don Mario blues (“father Mario blues”)
04, Tarantella del vibrione (“vibrio’s tarantella” – in 1973 a huge cholera epidemic hit Naples and other cities in Southern Italy, but the track is actually dedicated to Roberto Franceschi, a 21-year old student shot dead by the police in Milan during a demonstration on January 23rd, 1973)
06, Viva la Cassa del Mezzogiorno (“up with the Cassa del Mezzogiorno” – Cassa del Mezzogiorno, “Mezzogiorno’s bank”, was a publicly held bank established in the Seventies to finance development projects in Southern Italy, soon infiltrated by mobsters)
In 1976 Liguori recorded, together with the poet-worker Giulio Stocchi, Demetrio Stratos, his father Pasquale Liguori on drums and some other fellow musicians La cantata rossa per Tall El Zataar (“the red cantata for Tall El Zaatar”), which recalled the huge massacre of Palestinian refugees by the hand of christian phalangists happened in Eastern Beirut earlier that year.
A version of “Tarantella del vibrione” featuring Tullio De Piscopo on drums and recorded at the Demetrio Stratos’ tribute concert in Milan, June 6th, 1979, is available in the legendary 1979 il concerto Cramps live album.
He is still active as a composer and performer. You can learn more about his past and current work at his official website (in italian only).
Every revolution needs a soundtrack. Pino Masi, born in Palermo, Sicily, and grown up in Pisa, Tuscany (his father’s hometown), has supplied italian extraparlamentary leftist opposition with protest anthems – mainly acoustic ballads – from late sixties up to mid-seventies such as a local Phil Ochs, becoming a kind of an official songwriter first for Potere Operaio (“workers power”), and then for Lotta Continua (“continuous fight”), two of the biggest and most active communist organizations of those years.
Masi founded in 1966 Canzoniere pisano (“pisan songbook”), a collective of young musicians devoted to developing a new form of political folk song; in 1967 he joined Nuovo canzoniere italiano (“new italian songbook”) – a similar group which gathered singer/songwriters from all over the country, which could be somehow compared to cuban Grupo de Experimentación Sonora – playing with the likes of Giovanna Marini, Giovanna Daffini, Enzo Delre, Ivan Della Mea.
During the hot decade between 1967 and 1977 he worked, among others, with psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini, Nobel prize winner Dario Fo, Julien Beck’s Living Theatre, managing festivals and happenings, co-authoring and writing the score for the documentary 12 dicembre (“december 12th”) by Pier Paolo Pasolini about the 1969 fascist bomb attack in piazza Fontana, Milan (a turning point in italian contemporary history), and releasing a bunch of songs – often instant classics – for the movement, such as La violenza (“the violence”), L’ora del fucile (“the shotgun hour”), La ballata del Pinelli (“the ballad of Pinelli”), never giving up actual militancy.
The peak of this phase came in 1976, with the transitory album Compagno sembra ieri (“comrade, it seems yesterday”) and his legendary nude performance on the main stage at the Parco Lambro alternative music festival in Milan (you can see an excerpt here). But a new level was coming. His friendship with Ornette Coleman and Steve Lacy, met at concerts in Pisa, opened him to the free jazz scene; meanwhile, he had started a personal process of discovering of the mediterranean roots of italian folk, studying south-italian, north-african and middle-eastern musical structures.
Alla ricerca della madre mediterranea (“in search of the mediterranean mother”), released on Cramps in 1978, is the result of these diverse and seemingly incompatible influences: a destructured six-movements free folk simphony echoing Moroccan and Arabian hymnodies, shattered by feverish rythm patterns and broken with experimental inserts, with Masi and his all-star backing band featuring Donald “Rafael” Garrett – formerly bass and wind player with Coltrane, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, Coleman himself – experimental jazz bassist Roberto Della Grotta, and Lucio Fabbri on the violin, grappling with upset traditionals such as Su patriotu sardu a sos feudatarios (a sardinian protest song from the Eighteenth century, on which is based Procurate moderare), and Abballati abballati, an obsessive tarantella from Sicily.
It’s the dark side of the Mediterranean. Music which comes from an unknown time and space between Luciano Cilio, Area, early Claudio Rocchi and avant folksters such as Aktuala, Canzoniere del Lazio or Carnascialia. Full of mistery, rage and joy of life, just as traditional music manages to be in its highest moments.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Un giorno a Tangeri (“one day in Tangier”)
02, Festa al campo profughi (“feast at the refugee camp”)
03, Procurate moderare (“provide to moderate”)
04, Terrasini perché (“Terrasini because”)
05, Abballati abballati (“dance dance”)
06, Marrakech insieme (“Marrakech together”)
In 1986 Pino Masi moved to Sicily to work as a painter, helping his friend Mauro Rostagno with his rehab community Saman, until the latter’s murder by the hands of mafia killers in 1988. He acted as a human shield in the first Iraqi war in 1991, then working as a cooperant with UN in children’s defense and recovery. He now lives in the countryside around Pisa with his family. You can happen to meet him in the town’s taverns, where he sometimes pops up to play old songs as a busker.
His current musical project is the “transmediterranean theatrical-musical company” called Tribal Karma Ensemble. He has also played gigs and recorded with the combat folksters Folkabbestia! from Bari.