Around Small Fairy Tales is one of the most fascinating melanges I've encountered in a long while. Clarinetist Gianiluigi Trovesi (who also wields an alto sax on occasion) here fronts a 23-piece orchestra, the Orchestra da Camera di Nembro Enea Salmeggia, under the direction of arranger Bruno Tommaso. There are quite a few violins and other strings included - there's even a harp. Most of what they play is written by Trovesi, although there are some other odds and ends thrown in, including a couple of anonymous old tunes from Naples, dating from the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries!
The sixteenth century one, "Sia maledetta l'acqua," begins this disc, which thus understandably (considering also the orchestration) has a sonorous classical feel from the outset. Trovesi's originals, however, are often no less weighty, although in "Sia maledetta" and elsewhere his clarinet can and does carry the proceedings from the courts of Naples to the streets of New Orleans and back. He can also, as on "La maschere: Pierrot" approach the passionate cries of Dolphy, as the music builds to a medium-to-strong percolation before crashing headlong into a gong. This piece is actually a three-part mini-epic, executed in six-and-a-half minutes and containing in that small space an impressive expanse of textures and moods.
"Dance for a King" is a more focused and driving, with Trovesi engaging in a some dialogue with the full orchestra and crying out passionately over the subdued but intense backdrop the orchestra provides. He opens "La pazzia" on bass clarinet alone before giving way to a mournful and thoroughly classically-inflected violin solo from Stefano Montanari. Their exchange is all too brief here. The classical feel pervades "C'era una strega, c'era una fata" even more thoroughly, as the string section and Montanari carry the piece quite far without a peep from Trovesi (who does ultimately make a quiet appearance.)
The next track, however, "Verano," has an overt jazz/blues feel, somewhat reminiscent of Coltrane's "Olé." Trovesi picks up his sax and spins some oriental lines, ably taken up echoed by Andrea Dulbecco in a vibes solo. But with "Illimani" we're back in classical Naples, courtesy flautist Ombretta Maffeis and oboeist Giuseppina Gerosa. Elena Corni is on this track on harp, making it sound a bit like a Disney soundtrack, but Trovesi helps the orchestra keep its moorings. Then follows another ambitious multi-part suite to end the disc: "Ambulat hic armatus homo." This one clocks in at thirteen and a half minutes, twice as long as "La maschere: Pierrot" and, it seems, with twice as many variations of tone and mood. A fitting end to an ambitious and largely successful disc.