Posts Tagged ‘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).
Fabio Carboni from Die Schachtel lended me this album in a plain yet beautiful gatefold die-cut cover some time ago, saying something like: “it’s quite an interesting record, but there’s actually just one song which is worth the listening”. Oh, boy. Fabio, you definitely must have picky tastes – or maybe you were just kidding me. I brought it home, and I played it. Once and then again. And again. I was thunder-struck.
Is this an art pop female singer/songwriter? In 1970? Is she the same girl who wrote some songs for the popstar Iva Zanicchi? And that sitar-driven track? There are several reasons because Vola, vola in alto amore mio (“fly, fly high my love”, a line from “Se mi vuoi”) is astonishing. The most striking is perhaps its spectacular lack of impact on the early seventies Italian music scene, its being in vain, a grand miss; it’s like if the record, and Anna herself, imploded somewhere in outer space instead of burning like a bright sun at the centre of the star system as it, and she, should have done, undeterredly continuing to vanish for almost forty years.
Then come, of course, its strictly musical qualitites, such as the excellent songwriting (all tracks are credited to Arazzini and the producer Ezio Leoni), which spans classic ballads and torch songs, rarefied jazz, bloodless soul, bossa, Italian folk and world music (such as in the klezmer-like “Ballata di una bimba”) and seems not completely unaware of the recent achievements by Fairport Convention and Pentangle, Joni Mitchell, or Jefferson Airplane at their folkiest, while the lyrics astoundedly record in ecstatic surrender the beauty and pain of nature and love. Or the magnificent, ethereal and roomy arrangements by Enrico Intra, which shake and break their Morriconian mould by dint of insisting on the darkest and most troubled zones, eventually gracing the record with a pervading imaginary soundtrack mood (by the way, in 1969 Anna had performed the song “Un posto per un addio” – “a place for a farewell” – for the Piero Umiliani’s score to La morte bussa due volte by Harald Philipp – international title: Death knocks twice).
And, above all, the depth and intensity of her performance: starting from the positions of Mina or Patty Pravo she comes to expressive solutions and emotional lands that Italian female musicians such as Giuni Russo and Alice would have rediscovered after ages (try listen to “Quanti anni, ragazzo” or “Il mare è tranquillo”), approaching priestesses like Sandy Denny or Beth Gibbons (“Palden”, for instance, would have easily fit in the latter’s masterpiece with Rustin’ Man Out of Season).
Here is the tracklist:
01, Tu non sei più innamorato di me (“you’re no longer in love with me”)
02, Quanti anni, ragazzo (“how many years, boy”)
03, Sveglierai la luna (“you will wake up the moon”)
04, Sarà Emanuela (“it will be Emanuela” also released as a 7″ b/w “Lontano dall’inverno” – “far from winter” – in 1969)
05, Ballata di una bimba (“ballad of a baby girl”)
06, Come il vento notturno (“like the night wind”)
07, Se mi vuoi (“if you want me” also released as a 7″ b/w “Tu non sei più innamorato di me”)
08, Il mare è tranquillo (“the sea is still”)
10, Elegia (“elegy”)
11, Oggi il sole è il re (“today the sun is the king”)
12, Una volta (“once”)
After this largely unnoticed exploit, Anna Arazzini went on working as a theatrical actress, mostly in musicals, before vanishing without a trace in the late eighties. You can see and hear her in an excerpt from the original 1980 staging of Tito Schipa jr.’s Er Dompasquale after the Don Pasquale by Donizetti, in which she played the role of Norina.
The Italian book of the dead. Too much words for one man alone: breathless. Imagination in spite of hope, desire gone bad.
There’s a song in this record, called “Analfabetizzazione” (that is to say: the contrary of literacy), which reads: “Ed il lavoro l’ho chiamato piacere, perché la semantica è violenza oppure è un’opinione. Ma non è colpa mia, non saltatemi addosso, se la mia voglia di libertà oggi è anche bisogno di confusione. Ed il piacere l’ho chiamato dovere, perché la primavera mi scoppiava dentro come una carezza. Fondere, confondere, rifondere, infine rifondare l’alfabeto della vita sulle pietre di miele della bellezza” (“and the work, i called it pleasure, because semantics is violence, or it’s an opinion. but it’s not my fault, don’t you pitch into me, if my wish for freedom is now also a need for confusion. and the pleasure, i called it duty, because springtime was bursting into me like a caress. blending, blurring, refunding, finally re-establishing the alphabet of life on beauty’s honey stones”). In short, it’s all about fucking the meaning up. Work becomes pleasure, and pleasure turns into duty. What’s at stake is a complete revaluation of all dreams. Wait: that’s a downright treason. Despair is always subversive, and disappointment stinks like counter-revolution.
In 1977 Claudio Lolli was in an awkward position. Born in Bologna in 1950, he had established himself as one of the most radical among the politically engaged cantautori, yet all of his anti-establishment anthems – such as “Borghesia” (“bourgeoisie”) – had been released by a huge corporate record company like EMI, to which he was introduced by his fellow citizen Francesco Guccini (Lolli tauntingly recalled his early days with the major in “Autobiografia industriale”). Well, this is usually called a contradiction. So that when his record deal expired, he felt like jumbling it all up. The odd thing is that he had to switch to an alternative music label such as Ultima Spiaggia to record his requiem for the revolutionary movement: the new rallying cry was Disoccupate le strade dai sogni, “let’s clear the streets of dreams”. Too many comrades passed away, too many failures to come to terms with. There was anger to be wasted, there were mistakes to be repeated, and fallen to be honoured, such as Ulrike Meinhof (in “Incubo numero zero” – the album has the same title of the italian version of Meinhof’s biography by Prinz Alois) and Francesco Lorusso, a student killed by carabinieri during a demonstration in Bologna (in “I giornali di Marzo”, whose lyrics are a cut-up of those days’ newspapers).
And he twisted his own musical language to follow the lyrics’ edges (keeping on a path opened by Ho visto anche zingari felici – “i have happened to see happy gypsies too”, 1976) introducing jazz rock, progressive, impro elements which were typical of Ultima Spiaggia’s art-rock style, even inventing a funny dixie funeral march for social democracy which anticipated Vinicio Capossela, and eventually peaking his career and perhaps the entire singer/songwriters movement – even if the result was much closer to the R.I.O. scene or Dalla/Roversi’s work than to Guccini, Paolo Pietrangeli or Ivan Della Mea.
An enthusiastic melancholy and a subtle death drive had always been his key features, but negativeness reached a whole different level here. We are anywhere near Mauro Pelosi’s self-titled album, but the latter’s alarming vein of insanity turns into a ruthless lucidity. An autopsy carried out upon a still warm corpse.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Alba meccanica (“mechanical dawn”)
02, Incubo numero zero (“nightmare number zero”)
03, La socialdemocrazia (“the social democracy”)
04, Analfabetizzazione (“unalphabetization”, also released as a 7″ b/w “I giardini di marzo”)
05, Attenzione (“watch out”)
06, Canzone dell’amore o della precarietà (“song of love or of uncertainty”)
07, Canzone scritta sul muro (“song written on the wall”)
08, Autobiografia industriale (“industrial autobiography”)
09, Da zero e dintorni (“from zero and so on”)
10, I giornali di marzo (“the newspapers of march”)
Unfortunately, Disoccupate… did not manage to repeat his previous records’ success, and Ultima Spiaggia went bankrupt right before a live album project could be realized. Ironically, Lolli came back to EMI, releasing four other LPs with them until the early nineties.
He has worked as a teacher at secondary school and is still active as a musician and writer. His latest album is La scoperta dell’America (“the discovery of America”, 2006). You can learn more about Claudio Lolli at his Wikipedia page (in italian).
Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici (“social mechanical youngsters”, often shortened as GMM) was a multimedia collective pioneering computer art in Italy, founded in 1984 in Florence by the graphic designer Antonio “Tony” Glessi and the writer Andrea “Andy” Zingoni, whose name first appeared as the title of a computer-generated comic strip published on “Frigidaire” magazine starting from issue 42, May 1984.
Tony and Andy were soon joined by photographer Marco “Marc” Paoli and fashion designer and performer Loretta “Lore” Mugnai, and eventually by Maurizio Dami aka Alexander Robotnick – who had already released his first seminal efforts, such as the 12″ and 7″ versions of Problèmes d’amour (1983, 1984) and the LP Ce n’est qu’un debut (1984) – taking care of sound design and soundtracks to their performances, installations and videos.
A compilation of this music, most of the times proper songs with lyrics by Glessi and Zingoni, was released on a tape called GMM by Materiali Sonori in 1984. A vinyl album of the same title came out in 1985, featuring keyboards, programming and guitars by Alexander Robotnick, vocals by Robotnick himself, Marco Paoli and friends, and some jazz musicians playing winds and piano.
These kinds of releases often denote the original, functional purpose of the sounds contained by their lack of emotional and esthetical consistency and their disregard for the sheer listening experience, their pointless sniffy attitude and their exhausting reluctance to take any risk. But we’re having something completely different here: not just a background for a performance, but a performance in itself, which applies to the music the same vision, operational mode, and passionate detachment adopted by GMM in visual and performing arts (an approach to sound issues they shared with the experimental theatrical company Magazzini Generali, even if their musical outputs were slightly different).
The record (which incidentally is pure wonder, shining in beauty, humour and melancholy) provided the field for a clash of personal creativities, a ruthless and profitable confrontation between the diverse identities making up the collective; at the same time, it set up a testing ground for Robotnick to decompose his own language, precipitating traces of Tuxedomoon, EBM and jazz, synthpop and hip-hop, italo disco and mutant disco, presentiments of Pet Shop Boys and Matt Bianco’s cartoon swing caricatures. Disparate elements which prodigiously stay in balance and define in turn tracks such as the crepuscular Au jour de la separation and Petite soeur, Back and forth – which dangerously wanders out there, in a desolate suburban fringe, at night – and the hysterically high No fear nor destination and Ghimm’Alid’l Benzin – not to mention the amazing takes on Caravan by Duke Ellington, Gato Barbieri’s theme from Ultimo tango a Parigi (“last tango in Paris”) and Gilbert Becaud’s Et maintenant.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Love supreme
03, Au jour de la separation
04, Ultimo tango a Parigi (“last tango in Paris”)
05, Flashman swing
06, Back and forth
07, Don’t ask me why (also released as a 12″ b/w “Love supreme”)
08, Petite soeur
09, No fear nor destination
10, Ghimm’Alid’l Benzin (fake arab for “gimme a little benzina”, where “benzina” is the italian for “oil”)
11, Et maintenant
Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici have produced short films, theatrical performances, tv series, festivals, music videos for the likes of Teresa De Sio and Claudio Rocchi, experimenting with information technology and virtual reality, and achieving a huge success in the late Nineties with their cartoon character Gino il pollo (“Gino the chicken”, created by Andrea Zingoni and Joshua Held). Even if the collective disbanded in 1998, some of the members keep on working as Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici from time to time. For italian speakers, here is GMM’s website.
As for Maurizio Dami, in the Nineties he got more and more involved with african, Middle and Far East music, giving up his stage name and working with musicians from all over the world in acts such as Data from Africa, Music for Meditation, Govinda, and The Third Planet. He revived Alexander Robotnick in 2002, and has been releasing a bunch of new stuff since then, both as Robotnick and Italcimenti, together with his long-time friend Lapo Lombardi aka Ludus Pinski. He is currently active as a musician, dj, performer and dance music living legend. You can learn more about his past and present projects at robotnick.it
It’s amazing to see how fans of italian music from the sixties and the seventies seem to know everything about forgotten, obscure beat or prog acts, and keep posting their lost albums all around the blogosphere, while they totally disregard the work of one of our greatest musical geniuses, which stays up there with Franco Battiato and Lucio Battisti.
Lucio Dalla, born in Bologna in 1943, began as a clarinet player in jazz band, at the end of the fifties. In 1963, while playing in the backing band for the popstar Edoardo Vianello, he met Gino Paoli, who picked him up and helped him kicking off a solo career.
After some 7″, in 1966 he released his first album, 1999: a collection of beat-psych tracks, which also contained an italian version of James Brown’s It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world, whose lyrics were written by Sergio Bardotti and Luigi Tenco.
His first real masterpiece came in 1970 with Terra di Gaibola (“Gaibola’s land”), but it’s with his participation in the following year’s Sanremo festival with 4/3/1943 – he came third – that a mass audience noticed him. The song became almost immediately a standard (among many others, Chico Buarque recorded it as “Minha história” in his 1974 Construçao), and was then included in the interlocutory LP Storie di casa mia (“stories from home”, 1971).
And then came 1973. Lucio Dalla had recently begun to hang out at the bookshop in Bologna where Roberto Roversi, the owner and one of the most important italian poets of the past century, used to gather with his fellow writers Pier Paolo Pasolini, Francesco Leonetti, Franco Fortini. Dalla and Roversi decided to start writing together, infusing civil poetry into a yet unheard popular song form which encompassed pop, rythm’n’blues, progressive rock, jazz, folk, musique concréte, contemporary classic elements. The first output of this dreamy collaboration was Il giorno aveva cinque teste (“the day had five heads”).
Never had high and engaged culture managed to deal such effectively with pop music, not giving up profundity and its experimental attitude; never had pop music attempted to such extent to bring to light the very roots of power, rage, pain, spirit, love, joy, without losing its entertaining qualities. Try listen to “L’auto targata “TO”, “La bambina” or “La canzone d’Orlando”, and when you’ll feel that shiver down your back, you’ll get it. Obviously the lyrics are crucial here; anyway you’ll also find some examples of Dalla’s legendary scat singing and “fake english”, namely in “Pezzo zero”.
Here is the tracklist:
01, L’auto targata “TO” (“the car tagged “TO”)
02, Alla fermata del tram (“at the tram stop”)
03, È lì (“it’s there”)
04, Passato, presente (“past, present”)
05, L’operaio Gerolamo (“working man Gerolamo”)
06, Il coyote (“the coyote”)
07, Grippaggio (“seizing”)
08, La bambina (l’inverno è neve, l’estate è sole) (“the baby girl (winter is snow, summer is sun)”)
09, Pezzo zero (“track zero”, also released as the b-side of a 7″ featuring “Anna bell’Anna” in 1974)
10, La canzone d’Orlando (“the song of Orlando”)
After two other milestone releases such as Anidride solforosa (“sulphuric dioxide”, 1975) and Automobili (“cars”, 1976), Dalla and Roversi parted their ways. Lucio has been writing himself the lyrics to his songs since then, beginning with the incredible Come è profondo il mare (“how deep is the sea”, 1977), perhaps the most important record in the history of italian pop-rock.
He has released more than thirty albums to date, selling millions copies and achieving a worldwide success with songs such as Caruso, Ayrton, Canzone (“song”).
It would possibly take an entire blog to tell all the lives of Lucio Dalla – for instance, he has been a nominee for the best actor award in the 1967 Venice Film Festival for his role in I sovversivi, by the Taviani brothers, and has been experimenting with opera and film and tv scores. Pay a visit to his official website Pressing Line (in italian) to know more about his recent projects.
[edit: I have just noticed (via Martini & Jopparelli) that a song by Lucio Dalla, “Ulisse coperto di sale” (“Ulysses covered in salt”, from Anidride solforosa) has been recently sampled by the mighty Timbaland for his “Indian Carpet”. Read the whole story.]