Bassist and composer Ilaria Capalbo was born and brought up in Italy but spends much of her time in Sweden, where she recorded Karthago and assembled the band which performs on it. It is always a joy to encounter for the first time a musician who sounds so fresh and original and whose music is such a delight. Ciao, Capalbo.
Karthago was inspired by the ancient city of Carthage, which during the age of the Roman Empire lay on the North African coast, south west of the toe of Italy, in what is now Tunisia. The city is said to have been founded, unusually, by a woman, Queen Alyssa aka Dido. For over a century, Carthage was intermittently at war with Rome, whose army destroyed it in 146 BC.
Enough history. Karthago is in effect a suite, composed and arranged by Capalbo for a quintet, which is expanded on the opening track only to a septet. The music is elegiac and sometimes poignant, but never mournful and always lyrical and intensely, shimmeringly beautiful. There are occasional solos but they are briefthe emphasis throughout is on group playing, which moves seamlessly back and forth between arranged and improvised sections, both of which feature high degrees of counterpoint and collective interaction.
On the evidence of this album, Capalbo is not only a terrific bassist and composer, she also knows how to put together a well matched group of musicians: all here listen to each other with as much care and attention as they bring to performing their individual roles. Alto saxophonist and clarinetist Thomas Backman, tenor and baritone saxophonist Fredrik Nordstrom, guitarist Andreas Hourdakis and drummer Fredrik Rundqvist are together and separately key to the success of the music. Karthago is a perfect album with which to begin a New Year. It bolsters one's faith in the future of jazz.
Beloved; Part l Ab Radice; Karthago; Mare Nostrum; Scintilla; Moth; Part ll Ago Radices; What Remains Of Those Days.
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.