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Musicians have been combining various musical genres with jazz for decades and the results are often pretty messy. Jazz doesn't mix as well with its musical brethren as one might hope: often its improvisational side is diluted and all that survives the graft is an empty virtuosity. That's why the achievement of Italian acoustic guitarist Simone Guiducci and his Gramelot Ensemble is so stunning; as evidenced by Dancin' Roots , their fusion of jazz with various European and Middle-Eastern folk traditions is as natural-sounding and fun as it is musicianly and well-considered.
The core of GramelotGuiducci, accordionist Fausto Beccalossi, clarinetist Achille Succi, drummer Roberto Dani, and acoustic bassist Salvatore Maioreis here augmented with guests Don Byron (on clarinet only), trumpeter Ralph Alessi (who guested on the last Guiducci/Gramelot CD, Chorale , and who seems as flawlessly absorbed into the group chemistry as any core member) and, on the tune "Chorale n.2, pianist Andy Milne. Five of the album's ten songs are composed by Guiducci, but each of the Gramelot guysand Alessicontribute a song (two from Beccalossi). Guiducci's the leader, but this is truly ensemble music, produced by a group mind. While the leader's solos are stunning (his physical, partially-vocalized, flamenco-infused solo on "La Tur dal Sucar, for example, played first over Dani's hand percussion and Succi's bass clarinet and then over a growing polyphony of the other players, is paint-peelingly intense), what most impresses is the sound of the group: a moving, dynamic, living organism.
Everyone contributes memorable solo moments (Succi's saxophone-sounding bass clarinet on "Come Dici, say, or guest Byron on the Bach-evoking "Gramelot Dance ), but it's the way the players emerge from the group, individually and in various combinationsonly to fall back into the musical Gamelon stewthat fascinates. This group is tight , too: their stop-on-a-dime segue from furious improvisation straight into the so-Italian singsong theme of the aforementioned "La Tur dal Sucar makes me want to go see this bandright now.
The ethnic folk side of the group is less prominent on Alessi's "Irony, where Guiducci plays some marvelous progressions over an ominous Dani/Maiore groove, and more prominent on Maiore's frolicsome, melodic "Nedah. In any case, the elements of the group's soundethnic, folk, baroque, and jazzalways sound organic, never calculated or artificially inserted. Dancin' Roots is great to listen to right out of the shrinkwrap, but it'll stay with you: its top-notch group cohesion and sturdy tunes won't grow tired as the album's novelty fades. With this release, Simone Guiducci and his Gramelot Ensemble surely must be seen as one of the world's best working jazz groups.
Track Listing: 1. Maestro dei Sogni (intro) 2. Gramelot Dance 3. Canzone per Miranda 4. La Tur dal Sucar 5. Chorale n.2 6. Come Dici 7. Irony 8. Blanc 9. Nedah 10. Maestro dei Sogni
Personnel: Simone Guiducci: acoustic guitar; Fausto Beccalossi: accordion; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Achille Succi: bass clarinet, clarinet; Don Byron: clarinet; Roberto Dani: drums, percussion; Salvatore Maiore: acoustic bass; Andy Milne: piano (#5 only)