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Album Review

Alla Boara: Le Tre Sorelle

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Alla Boara: Le Tre Sorelle
Although critical consensus would have it that jazz is a unique art form with its roots placed squarely in America, the music has always been open to the influences of other music and cultures. Prime examples would have to include the early strains of French gypsy music that morphed with jazz thanks to the influence of Django Reinhardt in the '40s. Fast forward a few decades to find the widespread popularity of the Brazilian bossa nova via Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto and the incendiary musings of Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, and many others that would lead to Latin jazz.

In the spirit of this musical inclusivity comes the debut recorded project from Cleveland-based drummer Anthony Taddeo. The roots of his group, Alla Boara, go back to his college days in New York. While conducting research on global music, Taddeo stumbled upon field recordings of Italian folk songs captured on tape by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax in the 1950s. The haunting quality of this music found Taddeo, being of Italian descent himself, doing a deep dive into the culture that would last close to a decade.

Although Italian folk songs provide the fodder for this project, Taddeo and crew further the tradition of inclusion by bringing in other influences. There is also a sagacious balance between written sections and improvisation. "Alla Boara" is a prime example of the wide palate Taddeo utilizes, with jaw harp, accordion, and wordless vocals casting a tone recalling Middle Eastern tonalities. Tommy Lehman's wistful trumpet and Daniel Bruce's acoustic guitar find space for their own statements within the form of this lively opening gambit.

The title track opens with a sample of one of those iconic Lomax field recordings, which in its rawness evokes the vocal work of Joan LaBarbara on Don Sebesky's "The Rape of El Morro." When vocalist Amanda Powell enters the fold, her mellifluous lead and the gentle backing help give the piece a whole other flavor. Both bassist Ian Kinnaman and Lehman wax poetic during their brief time in the spotlight, with guest percussionist Jamey Haddad providing further rhythmic textures.

Several of the pieces here tend towards quiet introspection. "La Montanara" is a showcase for Powell's vocals layered over a lush backing recalling the temperament of the archetypical ECM album. Truly programmatic in nature, "Funeral Lament" is dark in character and further reveals the range of emotion Powell brings to the table, often aided and abetted by Lehman's haunting trumpet work. "Som Som" takes its opening melody from a Northern Italian lullaby, slowly progressing from ballad to ebullient flag-waver complete with boisterous drum accents and wailing electric guitar.

One of the jazziest numbers of the set, "Almond Sorters," comes on strong with Lehman's bold lead statement and Taddeo's incisive drum beat. Bruce's guitar paints with wide angular strokes while being buoyed by Kinnaman's pulsing bass ostinato. Equally animated, "Fimmene, Fimmene" puts rhythm at a premium and the regal nature of "Ballu" finds Taddeo utilizing brushes to great effect. For the closing "Mi Me Ne Fon" a playful and regal mood gives way to military snare drum fills and a triumphant air. Clay Colley's accordion takes a vital and prominent role in the proceedings and Taddeo takes his only solo of the session.

The manner in which Taddeo assembles these pieces is done in a creative way that really serves the music well. Furthermore, although Taddeo is a drummer and the leader of this group, he does not indulge in showy displays of technique or lengthy drum solos. His reward is clearly the joy of presenting music for which he holds a deep affinity.

Track Listing

Alla Boara; Le Tre Sorelle; C’Avanti C’è; La Montanara; Fimmene, Fimmene; Almond Sorters; Funeral Lament; Ballu; Som Som; Mi Me Ne Fon.

Personnel

Anthony Taddeo: drums; Daniel Bruce: guitar; Chris Coles: saxophone; Clay Colley: accordion; Jamey Haddad: percussion; Ian Kinnaman: bass; Tommy Lehman: trumpet; Amanda Powell: voice / vocals; Michael Ward-Bergeman: accordion.

Album information

Title: Le Tre Sorelle | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records

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