Carlo Actis Dato has had a long and colorful career, both with his own groups and as part of notable Italian bands, most importantly the Italian Instabile Orchestra and Pino Minafra Sud Ensemble. As a composer he imbibes the music and sounds he hears on his world travels, adding flavor to his compositions. Playing tenor and baritone saxophones and bass clarinet, Actis Dato's art is manifested in the many recordings he has made, from solo outings to leading the nonet Actis Furioso.
The realm of his music is enriched by the high level of energy he and his band bring to a performance, the eddying swirls of this multi-textured music met with song and dance. Actis Dato likes to turn his concerts into theater and draw the audience into the experience; a sense of fun and involvement that's evident on this live recording from dates played in Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and Australia.
Voices are raised in song as the quartet gets into "Raga." To be sure, the words are in Italian but their beat is the take-off point for the music. Actis Dato, a towering presence on baritone saxophone, zips into free flight once the melody has been essayed, with alto saxophonist Beppe Di Filippo inserting linear poly-tonality.
The rambunctious tune is the harbinger of what is to come. Di Filippo feeds the African melody of "Zanzibar" on soprano sax, unfurling a slew of ideas, while Actis Dato is beefy on baritone. Percussionist Daniele Bertone turns on their juxtaposition, his djembe the messenger of rhythm. "Mandingo" is a slow and yearning waltz, with remarkable beauty invested until that garb is cast off, dancing out into the open with heady abandon. The saxophones' twin projectiles are intensified by the propelling drums and rumbling bass, making for a potent and heady brew.
Composition and freedom make compact bedfellows on "Sahel," as the folk melody is extended by Actis Dato's dynamics. His long phrases rivet, as they cast a brassy, breathy line that tilts into the melody and then draws back for some tongue-slapping. The open pasture is also a happy feeding ground for Bertone's polyrhythms and Di Fillipo's squalls and forlorn cries. But melody is a constant beckoner and the quartet returns to immerse itself in that mode.
Intense, playful, and entertaining, the Actis Dato Quartet makes music that is pure joy.
Personnel: Carlo Actis Dato: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Beppe Di Filippo: soprano and alto saxophones; Matteo Ravizza: bass; Daniele Bertone: drums, djembe.