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MoFrancesco Quintetto: Kucheza

Chris Mosey By

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This album features a new, jazz version of the oldest song in the world. "The Seikilos Epitaph," probably from 200BC, was found engraved on a tombstone, or stele near the ancient Greek city of Ephesus in what is now Turkey.

It was signed by someone called Seikilos and dedicated to Euterpe, most likely his wife, along with the following lyrics:

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end


Diego Vida, pianist in MoFrancesco Quintetto, has arranged it as a wordless, dreamy ballad. Bang up to date, it echoes down the centuries, a reminder that both music and love are timeless.

The album's title, Kucheza, is a Swahili word that means, among other things, dancing. Leader Francesco Valente chose it to go with the highly distinctive cover painting by Valdemar Doria, an artist from São Tome and Principe, Portuguese-speaking islands off the coast of Central Africa.

Why Swahili? Because it is a lingua franca, a language used between people not sharing a first language. Valente, who plays bass, hopes the quintet's music, which incorporates African, Arab and Mediterranean influences, will likewise communicate beyond musical and linguistic boundaries.

Drummer Miguel Moreira's composition "MoGnawa" is based on a catchy riff and takes its inspiration from Moroccan gnawa music, traditionally performed at lila, communal nights of celebration dedicated to prayer and healing.

"Aljezur," by trumpeter Johannes Krieger, is a complex, lyrical number, featuring an excellent solo by Vida.

Valente, who is Italian but who lives and works in Portugal, penned "Spartacus" as a tribute to the Thracian gladiator who in 71BC led a revolt against Roman rule.

His bass is to the fore on "Taqsim," named for a melodic musical improvisation that precedes the performance of traditional Arabic, Greek, Middle Eastern, or Turkish musical composition. Krieger plays some fine trumpet on this one.

"Kucheza" is a fascinating blend of musical influences—modern Mediterranean jazz at its very best.

Track Listing: Kucheza (Intro); MoGnawa; Aljezur; Spartacus; Afro Bit; Ali Baba; Sesimbra; Peperoncino; Taqsim; Lamma Bada; Seikilos Revisited; Kucheza (Outro).

Personnel: Francesco Valente: bass; Diogo Vida, Iuri Gaspar: piano; Joao Capinha: saxophones; Johannes Krieger: trunpet; Guto Lucena: tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Miguel Moreira: drums; Marc Planells: oud; Andre Xina: special effects.

Title: Kucheza | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Sintoma Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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