The sky is pitch black. Spotlights are focused on seven musicians in front of a beautiful marble columned structure that towers over them. The outdoor concert starts and "Compagni di Merengue barrels out of the speakers. The group gets a huge, admittedly slightly cavernous, sound. The music is joyous, raucous, funny, and free within a clear harmonic and architectural structure.
Fazio's Live at Milano evokes the feeling of controlled chaos and is more than a bit Mingus-ish. Fazio, of courseas the leader and the driving force of the bandis aurally up front and amplified enough to be heard as another soloist, rather than just the harmonic bottom or rhythmic support. The basslines, vamps, and riffs constantly push and drive the music as the soloists let loose over a mostly static harmony between arranged sections for the band as a whole.
Each piece has its own personality, deriving primarily from the rhythm pattern and the part writing in between and behind each of the solos. The overall feel, however, is that of a jam band being held together, but just barely, by Fazio. "Compagne has a jazz-rock feel as the harmony oscillates I/IV/I with a turnaround section. "Pink Floyd is just fun as it rambles through different effects, telling a story about an incident that might or might not be true. "Walkabout starts with an excellent unaccompanied bass solo and leads into a standard progression with a walking bass and a melody that sounded very familiar, but which I just could not place.
Between each piece, the applause is thunderous, with much yelling. "Euphoria can be thought of as summing up the musical philosophy of Fazio and his septet. Altoist Francesco Aroni Vigone plays a very pretty extended line against soft bass and drums, but that is interrupted by the band coming to play the line in unison in double time. Vigone, of course, must fight back, and he proceeds to unleash a barrage as the band, aghast, drops out for a while. The mood is set now and things are really rolling and tumbling. Gianpeiro Malfatto takes his turn on trombone until the band, sounding like a very advanced version of Chicago, states the lead-in for the tenorwho, however, must push his way through everyone else who has something to say. And we are only half over, at five minutes!
The second half of the piece is introduced by violinist Emanuele Parrini mixing screeches with double stops, followed by trumpeter Giovanni Falzone, who tries to top him and actually plays through the full band interludes. Through all of this, Fiorenzo Sordini is boiling on drums, matching the intensity of Fazio's bass. The set ends to more applause and shouting as the musicians are announced, after which an eight-minute encore echoes everything that has preceded it.
Definitely not background musicand not the most subtle foreground musicLive in Milano is meant to be played with the volume up. So sit back, enjoy, and let Enrico Fazio and his tight/loose group of excellent musicians sweep you away.