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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Silvia Bolognesi Young Shouts - aLive Shouts (Fonterossa, 2019) ****

By Sammy Stein

Silvia Bolognesi is a busy woman. A double bass player, composer and arranger, she graduated from the Institute of Siena before studying jazz at the Siena Jazz Academy. She has worked with William Parker, Muhal Richard Abrams, Ken Vandermark, Antony Braxton Gianni Basso, Hamid Drake, Evan Parker and many more. In 2010 Musica jazz magazine awarded her Best New Talent award and the same year, she won the In Sound trophy in the double bass category. She leads several bands: Open Combo, Almond Tree, Xilo Ensemble, Ju-Ju Sounds, Fonterossa Open Orchestra, Young Shouts, Sly Family and since 2009 has been part of the international string trio Hear In Now with Tomeka Reid on 'cello and Mazz Swift on violin and vocals. She took part in the Art Ensemble of Chicago 50th Anniversary special project and collaborates with many musicians and has also played classical music with various orchestra and ensembles.
In 2010 she founded her own label, Fonterossa Records, a label set up, as she says, "to guarantee freedom of... production in full creative autonomy". She also runs classes and workshops and is professor of double bass, electric bass and combo class at Siena Jazz Academy and takes part in European exchange networks - like I said, a busy woman. Silvia has just agreed to be interviewed for my next book, which is commissioned by 8th House Publishers.

The repertoire on this CD is inspired by African-American traditional folk songs.

The 'Suite for Bessie Jones', written specifically for this group, comes from the lyrics of some of the songs made famous by the singer recorded by Alan Lomax. Her collaborators are Attilio Sepe on alto sax, Emanuele Marsico on trumpet and vocals, and Sergio Bolognesi on drums.

'Chicago Summer Storm' opens with a driving bass and drums groove set up, over which the trumpet and sax come in with harmonies before Emanuele Marsico switches to vocals and works up a conversation with the sax , conveying the intensity of a city and the confusion it can bring. There is an immediate and intense energy throughout the track, the bass hardly pausing, providing a deep, sonorous line for the others to work over. The extended , glorious sax solo of Attilio Sepe is cleverly worked around the roots of the bass line and supported by the gentle, non-invasive percussive lines before the trumpet takes over, punctuating the air with short, decisive riffs which slice over the textured arrangements for the rhythm section. 'You Better Mind ( Suite for Bessie Jones 1)' opens and closes with clear, emotive vocals from Marsico, whose clarity of tone soars over the gentle sax backing. There is a wonderfully engaging section where sax and trumpet each take their lines in opposite directions, converging periodically in harmony and also parts where the trumpet flairs and blairs with an intensity which, at full volume, just about takes your head off.

'Shoo Turkey' ( Suite for Bessie Jones 11)' is a rhythmically infused call and response in country dance style before it morphs cleverly into a harmonic, chamber music-like episode before the bass line emerges in the background, solid as a rock and strong, powerful, driving the rhythms into a forward motion, over which the trumpet steals and then expands. There is gorgeous improvisation on this track with each member of the ensemble providing their own interlude - and it is a joy when the trumpet decides to break with the rest, followed by the sax which takes over and introduces a gentler mode - initially - before ascending into a creativity which astounds. Sax and bass then converse for a lovely moment apart before drums, then trumpet join them and a well worked counter rhythm section just happens and then, then, the bass emerges and takes central position with a gorgeous solo to the end of the track - a blissful segue into 'I'm A Rollin' ( suite for Bessie Jones 111) ' which opens with a constant bass rhythms over which the vocals tell the story of travel on an unfriendly road needing help. The percussion does many wondrous things and is captivating underneath the steady vocal lines. All seems calm until the sax entry around the 3 minutes mark, which the trumpet then adds to and we are away, rhythms picking up, pace quickening. Now we are running and the harmonies are lovely, sometimes harmonious, sometimes at 5th and 7ths but addictive and so listenable. A sax solo, a trumpet counter and the track is full, textured and layered, rhythms changing, a drum solo, tempo varying and the whole thing adds up to just over 11 minutes of wonder.

'Hambone ( Suite for Bessie Jones 1V)' picks up with a drum solo, spoken poetical vocals and then some harmonious trumpet-sax with bass underneath. A three note solo phrase finish from the bass introduces the sax solo, which is strong and energetic, regularly cutting to the bass in the initial stages, which responds with short 3 and 5 notes replies before the sax travels the scales and takes a musical journey of its own, delightfully cut into by the sharp trumpet and underpinned by the bass and drums. Playful yet strong this is made more interesting by the jarring trumpet over the smooth, flowing alto lines. The trumpet takes the last part of the middle section before the bass and drums take the listener towards the end - the bass is deep, sonorous and every last vibration is heard and felt. The full ensemble finish is lovely.

'Sometimes' has a spiritual feel and Silvia's vocals are velvety and luxurious. Again, there is that lovely play and switching of first the alto sax taking a tuneful line with trumpet braying sweetly across the top, then the trumpet takes the melody and the sax returns the favour of cheeky interruptions. The joyful percussion line adds a playful element to this number. The section with bass under the chorus of vocals is really well arranged and clever. 'Semplice' is great track with each member of the ensemble contributing their voice making a very intriguing finish to the album. Tremolo bass under sax and trumpet, then bowed bass under the pair, still in counterpuntal and exquisite disharmony, serves to emphasis the fun of this number, which , though slow, has the feel of a slightly drunk Mexican bandit weaving his way home after one too many in the saloon. The trumpet slides and wavers, adding to the sense of imbalance but it is deliberate and serves to emphasise the tuneful (absolutely sober) playing which then emerges. For its changes of both keys, tempo and attitudes, this is the highlight of the album but only marginally. This entire album is an absolute find and a delight to listen to - fun, great arrangements and harmonies and the right number of perfectly placed disharmonies to maintain interest and keep the ears pricked.

The instrumentation as well as the frequent moments of collective improvisation, display characteristics of a classic modern jazz quartet. The playing is superb and the overall essence of this album is four musicians, thoroughly enjoying themselves yet with a mind to what the listener is hearing. A gem in every sense.


Sherm Clow said...

Outstanding! At last, some real meat instead of the aimless noodling found with many
"free jazz" groups. I enjoyed the interplay between the horns, the rock solid and up front bass, and the tasteful drumming. This is an excellent release, hopefully I can find the hirez file version.