Many acts of heroism are rewarded, but there are frequent acts of bravery and defiance that go unnoticed and unheralded. With the intention of shining a light on these everyday acts of humanity, Italian bassist Luca Lo Bianco brings us his third album as leader, Six Extraordinary Acts and a City. The acts concerned take place in different times, with contrasting contexts and in various geographic regions. There are seven tracks, with six written by Lo Bianco and one cover of a piece by Paul Simon.
The album opens with "The Librarian of Timbuktu," this is dedicated to Abdel Kader Haidara, a Malian librarian who mobilised a team to move 350,000 precious manuscripts away from the control of Al Qaeda. The song has an air of mystery and danger emphasised by the use of a Ghanaian Adowa rhythm and fractured improvisations. Bass and drums lead into "The Road Builder," a song about the English 18th Century blind road builder, John Metcalf, this features an inventive solo from Succi and a winding bass from Lo Bianco. A bass ostinato leads into "The Choice" before a funky interchange between Leipold and Succi. The drum and bass patterns echoing the idea of combat in the story of Keiko Fukuda, the judoka who defied tradition to become the only female 10th Dan in the history of judo.
"This Heavy Handbag" uses understated guitar, bass and saxophone solos in a dreamy melodic ballad to contrast with the actions of Danuta Danielsson, a woman immortalized in a famous photograph showing her throwing her bag at a neo-Nazi protester. Bass clarinet and guitar clash in the freer sections of "323," creating a storm of sound with Kuratle's thrashing drums. All echoing the anger felt by the Turkish musicians of Grup Yorum, who in order to assert their right to defend their freedom, began a hunger strike which ended with their death after 323 days. "Sarajevo Taxi Driver" uses pulsing bass along with fine contributions from Leipold and Succi to express the acts of Miomir Mile Plakalovic, the taxi driver who for 1,440 days moved those wounded in the war in Sarajevo.In contrast to the narrative so far, the final track, Paul Simon's "Silent Eyes," concerns an inability to act. The subject being the city of Jerusalem. The dreamy atmosphere of this track allows plenty of space and features accomplished work from Leipold.
Lo Bianco takes numerous risks with this project and for the most part they pay off. The quartet play with plenty of spirit, shifting between strong melodic formations and the loosely structured without ever over-playing their hand. An interesting and absorbing album.
The Librarian of Timbuktu; Road Builder; The Choice; This Heavy Handbag; 323; Sarajevo Taxi Driver; Silent Eyes.
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