Dominic Mancuso is one of the most distinctive voices in music. He is a paramount storyteller; a premier Sicilian griot of these times. He wails with the best. He cries the blues from the depths of his soulbringing great measures of duende to the music. Mancuso can swoop, flutter, and rush in to every nook and cranny to dilate the mind's eye when he sings. At times he is like that blithe spirit inhabiting the hidden breath of music, the one who makes the nape of the neck crawl with delight and who makes the heart skip a beat when he lets that distinctive rasp glide through to deconstruct and rebuild the song from its very depth. In this respect, he recalls the great Ray Charles
award-winning Sicilian Jazz Project (True North Music, 2008)is headed for the proverbial classic status despite its being a humbly offered self-production, the fate of much worthwhile music these days. On this album, Mancuso weaves in the warmth and passion of Sicilian folk sensibility with the sliding quarter notes of the myriad sounds of the Mediterranean rim with the vibrant elasticity of the idiom of soul and the wild swing of jazz and Romani freedom.
From the repertoire, even without a first listen, it becomes clear that Mancuso is driving for that zone that warms the cockles of his heart. His selection mainly of classic songs would have been the safest bet here but, being a restless spirit, Mancuso cannot bring himself to merely lay down music that the world is familiar with. He imbues every song with light and dark twists and turns and recreates them from the inside out. His artistic intensity drives the music with marvelous abandon. "Je So Pazzo" teeters on the edge like the drunken cliff-hanger that it turns out to be. Mancuso is positively puckish on the wonderful "Menamenamo" and his take on Gino Paoli's lyrics to the Jacques Brel song, "Ne Me Quitte Pas" is heart-breaking and seems made for his raspy voice. He imbues the classic "O Sole Mio" with a magic that is both drenched in a longing for that promise of living brightness.
But by far the most memorable tracks on the album are the popular Lucio Dalla song, "Caruso," which is sung with such an elemental sadness that it feels like a corkscrew through the heart. The legend of "Padre N'toni" is a classic as is "Sicilia Antica," a poem by Guiseppe Gennaro narrated by Venus and featuring Ernie Tollar's ney and the doumbek of Rick Lazaroff
. On this album Mancuso also enjoys the company of a group of stellar Canadian musicians: guitarist Tony Zorzi, the singer's alter-ego, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Adamson, drummer extraordinaire Mark Kelso and bassist George Koller. This is a rare album indeed, quite simply one of a kind.
Track Listing: Je So Pazzo; Menamenamo; Caruso; Il Perscivendolo; Non Andare Via; Lu Scuru; Sicilia Antica; A Padre N'toni; Mi Vuotu; Curuna; Favi Amari; O Sole Mio.