Acoustic guitarist Simone Guiducci and his Gramelot Ensemble have defined a new musical language that combines indigenous Northern Italian folk music with modern jazz. Inspired by the invented "gramelot" language of 15th century troubadours, 16th century Monteverdian fundamental discords and the modern gramelot of playwright Dario Fo, the Ensemble's latest release, Chorale, exposes a quintet that is in search of a broader musical patois but at the same time is comfortable with its roots.
Like the previous release, Cantador, it is the melodies that stand out on Chorale and form the basis for Guiducci to showcase his very graceful guitar stylings. The Ensemble is also able to deftly handle the varied cadences and surprises that are brought to the fore by several guest musicians. It is these guests, notable international jazz musicians in their own right, that give the recording more the feel of a lovely quilt than that of a musical melting pot. Trumpeter Ralph Alessi blends in beautifully with Achille Succi's clarinet on "Gramelot in 6/8," allowing northern Italian folk to meet downtown NYC, as accordionist Fausto Beccalossi and percussionist Foberto Dani keep things in focus. Alessi's horn also plays well off of Guiducci's gentle guitar on the slow melodic title piece.
Clarinetist Chris Speed and cellist Erik Friedlander, each well known for his own Balkan/klezmer/jazz mixings, appear separately. "Kompa," written by Speed, is a klezmeresque clarinet-guitar romp that comes to a screeching halt as both instruments improvise in slow "doina" style as they find their way back to the initial groove. The ensemble appears to be most comfortable with Friedlander, who with clarinetist Guido Bombardieri stands out on the wildly hypnotic "La Sigagna." Maria Pia De Vito's rich full vocal is the perfect partner to Salvatore Maiore's hauntingly elegant bass lines on the enchanting "Voccuccia de no pi'rzeco." Closing things out is "Filastrocca per Martina"; Simone sings to his guitar while Romanian soprano saxophonist Nicolas Simion and clarinetist Succi improvise off the melody.
The strength of Chorale lies in the ability of Guiducci and his Ensemble to adapt to the contrasting styles of each guest. Like the troubadours - who drew upon multiple dialects and invented words to produce a gramelot in which word sounds lost their literal meaning so that they could be understood by all - the Gramelot Ensemble has drawn upon differing musical styles to produce a cohesive musical experience that all can enjoy.
1. Gramelot in 6/8 2. Voccuccia de no pierzeco 3. La sigagna 4. Chorale 5. The After Hours 6. Kompa 7. Last Chorale and Dance 8. Filastrocca per Martina