Home » Jazz Articles » Robert Wyatt: Comicopera

188

Album Review

Robert Wyatt: Comicopera

By

Sign in to view read count
Robert Wyatt: Comicopera
More ambitious than anything he's done before while, at the same time, more interactive, intimate and live sounding, Comicopera represents another milestone for singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt. It's not just that he's using a larger group of musicians for the record, making for the broadest musical canvas yet; but this three act opera (of sorts) consolidates many of the personal, social and political issues that have occupied his work since Rock Bottom (Virgin, 1974).



Wyatt began his career as a drummer and vocalist for Soft Machine, but an accident in the early 1970s, after he'd left the British group, left him paralyzed from the waist down. Rather than the devastating blow such a tragedy would mean for most, Wyatt has remolded his career by learning a variety of musical instruments (and playing a percussion set-up that requires only his arms), and by evolving as a songwriter for whom there's little comparison. It isn't folk music, it isn't pop or rock music, it isn't jazz: it's simply Robert Wyatt music. Dealing with adversity as he has, one almost wonders if he'd have developed as such a distinctive artist had he not suffered the loss of his legs.



The first two acts consist largely of original music by Wyatt and longtime lyrical/life partner Alfie Benge, although the disc opens with Norwegian pop singer Anja Garbarek's "Stay Tuned, which acts as a dark overture—rich in texture, melancholy in tone. From there the music incorporates relationship realism and pop simplicity ("Just as You Are ); the compositionally complex "You You, a subtle nod to his classic "The Moon in June featuring a brief but selfless solo by clarinetist Gilad Atzmon; the beginnings of distrust in "A.W.O.L, with Wyatt's trumpet meshing with trombonist Annie Whitehead; and a touch of swing on the instrumental "Anachronist While Wyatt's distinctive falsetto is heard throughout, it's balanced by more low-register singing than usual, and the fragility in his voice has never been more evocative.



The second act features the near-folk of "A Beautiful Peace, a cynical take on religion with the bluesy swing of "Be Serious, and a curious mix of steel pans, saxophone and garage guitar in "On the Town Square. Things turn darker still on the spare "Mob Rule, the paradoxically buoyant "A Beautiful War and more chaotic "Out of the Blue.



Wyatt shifts to singing in Italian and Spanish on material largely by Italian, Spanish and Cuban writers, as he searches for meaning in the world, closing with a brief reprisal of "Just as You Are ("Fragment ) and "Hasta Seimpre Comandante, a hymn to Che Guevara. Whether or not you agree with Wyatt's politics, it's impossible to ignore the understated power and rich concept of Comicopera. It's a near-cinematic song cycle that, at the end of the day, may be the closest thing to a pop album Wyatt's made. Still, its stylistic diversity and combination of well-conceived arrangements and unequivocal team playing make it one of the best records of his career.

Track Listing

ACT ONE (Lost in Noise): Stay Tuned, Just as You Are, You You, A.W.O.L., Anachronist; ACT TWO (The Here and Now): A Beautiful Peace, Be Serious, On the Town Square, Mob Rule, A Beautiful War, Out of the Blue; ACT THREE (Away With the Fairies): Del Mondo, Cancion de Julieta, Pastafari, Fragment, Hasta Siempre Comandante.

Personnel

Robert Wyatt: voice (1-7, 9-13, 16), piano (1, 2, 10), percussion (1, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15), trumpet (1, 4), cornet (2, 3, 5, 8), keyboard (3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15), old metronome (4), guitar (6), karenotron (i.e. voice of Karen Mantler) (10, 16), enotron (i.e. the voice of Brian Eno) (11), pocket trumpet (13), electrical interference (14), monicatron (i.e. the voice of Monica Vasconcelos (16); Brian Eno: keyboard (1), keyboard bass (11), effects (1); Seaming To: voice (1), clarinet (1); Annie Whitehead: trombone (1, 3, 5, 11), baritone horn (4); Yaron Stavi: bass violin (1, 2, 4-7, 11, 12); Monica Vasconcelos: voice (2, 15); Paul Weller: guitar (2, 7); Gilad Atzmon: saxophones (3, 5, 8), clarinet (3); Jamie Johnson: bass guitar (3), electrical interference (14); David Sinclair: piano (4); Phil Manzanera: guitar (6); Del Bartle: guitar (8); Orphy Robinson: steel pan (8), vibraphone (14); Alfie Benge: voice (11); Beverley Chadwick: baritone saxophone (11); Chucho Merchan: bass violin (13); Maurizio Camardi: saxophones (16); Alfonso Santimone: piano (16), keyboards (16); Alessandro Fedrigo: bass guitar (16); Paolo Vidaich: percussion (16); Gianni Bertoncini: drums (16).

Album information

Title: Comicopera | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Domino Records (UK)

Post a comment about this album


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Tags

More

The Source
Kenny Barron
Espérame en el Cielo
Gilbert Castellanos
Permeance
Wade Matthews / Abdul Moimême

Popular

Exude
Francesca Han & Ralph Alessi
Baker's Dozen
The Muffins
Blues & Bach: The Music Of John Lewis
Enrico Pieranunzi Trio & Orchestra
The Border
Douwe Eisenga

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.