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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Maddalena Ghezzi and Maria Chiara Argiro - Emerald (s/r, 2022)

By Sammy Stein

Maddalena Ghezzi is a London-based Italian singer, composer, and improviser. Passionate and curious about using her voice in creative ways, she has been working in jazz, improvised and experimental music since moving to the UK in 2009. Her work draws inspiration from the natural world, literature, visual arts, and the socio-political status of our world. As a leader, she has released four Eps and an album. She has collaborated with Andrew Page, Parasang 8, and Animal Choir. She has performed at the Milan Jazz Festival, the Southbank Centre, and Hundred Years Gallery, among other venues, and has been played on the BBC. Maddalena studied jazz singing with Brigitte Beraha and is currently deepening her research in singing, Libero Canto, improv, and composition with Sara Serpa.

Emerald is the fourth release in Ghezzi’s series ‘Minerals’ and features pianist, synth player, composer, and producer Maria Chiara Argirò. Maria Chiara Argirò. Argiro is a London-based artist, pianist, synth player, composer, and producer known for her dramatic atmospheric jazz and who is now venturing into new territories incorporating electronic soundscapes and vocals. She has been a presence on the UK jazz scene for over a decade, and collaborations include the indie band These New Puritans, jazz troupe Kinkajous and Jamie Leeming. With Leeming and their album ‘Flow,’ she received a nomination for album of the year in the Jazz Revelations Awards and was the Guardian’s jazz album of the month.

Ghezzi describes the music of ‘Emerald’ as ‘a sci-fi feminist EP’. The ‘Minerals’ series aims to create snapshots of Ghezzi’s artistic collaborations and build a compilation of varied and versatile exchanges. The first three releases are EPs, Amethyst (with double bassist Thodoris Ziarkis), Halite (with pianist and composer Ed Blunt), and Opal (with guitarist and vocalist Francesca Naibo. Each work is created in a different space, decided by the collaborator, to capture a diverse range of room sounds. They provide material for Ghezzi’s forthcoming anthology of writings and a compilation when the Minerals project is concluded.

‘Land Briefly,’ was inspired by the movie Another Earth, is the only track with lyrics: The track is atmospheric with bird-like sounds in the background and creates an essence of a forest. The dream-like quality of the music is enhanced by the lyrics, "In the red line, at the horizon, above the waves of clouds, I know you live. Parallel. Yellow into orange. Treehouse in the sky”. The lyrics were written on a plane at sunset where Ghezzi observed that the clouds below looked like dark waves and only the horizon was lit with yellows and oranges. She experienced the sensation of a glimpse into a parallel universe. The word “treehouse” is a tribute to Maria Chiara’s track with the same name that Maddalena was listening to on the plane.

‘On The Outside’ is based on an image from the outside of Earth where women are strong, and there are flowers, men, and rockets. Ghezzi says, “It’s basically life as it is right now but without the veil of patriarchy over everything. Women are laying bricks, flying rockets, and getting recognition. And most of all they can have fun and dance. This world is booming with colours and energy. It is an unapologetic, musical world where women composers take their space”. The energy in the music on this track is palpable, with voiced accents and deeply nuanced waves of sound, which spiral out from the background – just like the strength of women, so vital and important.

‘Of The Flower’ was written about the image of a girl sitting on the edge of an enormous white flower, her legs dangling from it. Ghezzi explains, “ The full flower forest around her is displaying itself fully to the moonlight. The bendy detuned synths and vocals symbolize the gentle movement of the petals moved by the breeze. This song is about a “let me be” kind of feminism. Let me breathe, walk alone at night without fear, and flourish without restrictions”. There is indeed a sense of purpose and freedom to the music; the listener is caught by the soaring vocals and warping, gently rhythmic synths, a little like the steady beat of nature, swaying in tune to music and creation.

Together, the three-track titles make the phrase, “land briefly on the outside of the flower,” which is taken from The Book Of Delights by poet Ross Gay and summarises the core of the Minerals series: going outside of one’s comfort zone to be inspired and enriched both personally and compositionally.

The music is profound. Each collaboration is different in the ‘Minerals’ series due to the different collaborators and the flexible yet constant quality of Ghezzi’s presence.