Sicilian Opening from Salvatore Bonafede is a wonderful album. It offers ample reason why Bonafede has been in demand by musicians as diverse as Ralph Towner, Enrico Rava, Dewey Redman, and Lester Bowie. The Italian pianist is an extremely gifted and melodic composer. His songs are utterly fascinating and memorable. They can flutter and soar, like birds on the wing, as "La Grande Ilusión" and "Appunti su Palermo," do. They gallop and swing with equal portions of equine grace and jazzy swagger as "Ideal Standard" does. Then there are those that echo in the mind's ear with marvelous and unforgettable lines that criss-cross each other with contrapuntal majesty, such as "Italiàn Ingegno" and "Torre Ligney."
Of course Bonafede is also a fine pianist who combines near perfect technique with just enough of a tilt in his manner of swing that it gives him a unique and ability to interpret his own and other written material with curious and original expression. His exacting statements of melody on the Beatles' "Blackbird" are a fine example of how he combines horizontal linearity with devastating horizontal elasticity. Thus he makes the song quite his own from chorus to chorus. Still the melody ripples and chirps under the surface cheerfully as the Bonafede leads the ensemble on a soaring journey. On "She's Leaving Home" he is even more daring as he darts in and out of the melody with the curved grace and elegance of a sublime craftsman in a swelling ocean of sound.
Although Bonafede tends towards a folksier, Southern Italian idiom, sometimes with the heavy influence of Arabic-Mediterranean quarter notes flavoring the melodic rush, he also shows himself to be an ever conscious of the blues. This is a singular feeling that seems to infuse the art of many musicians from the Peninsula and it is as unique as that of the Delta. While no pattern of 12 bars emerges here there is a bursting tension in the melodies that emerge when soaked in the Sicilian sun that ululate and wail from line to line throughout the stated melody as on "Appunti su Palermo." "bbbb" however is played in a more straight Delta style and is as authentic as one can ever be.
Bonafede has also chosen to constitute his trio wisely. Although drummer Marcello Pellitteri is a tad hard on the toms and the ride cymbal at times he offsets the piano's softness with graceful rhythmic patterns almost throughout. Bassist Marco Panascia is a master of tone and, at times, can even embellish a piece with subtle shades together with Pellitteri. "Lode al Silenzio" shows the two men to be in sublime control of their instruments allowing the pianist to shape and give body and characteristic emotion to the piece. Sicilian Opening is an album with many such gems and their discovery may require repeated listening of the material. In the end, though, it's all worth the effort.
Track Listing: Sicilian Opening; La Grande Ilusión; Ideal Standard; bbbb; WWWW; Blackbird; It Plays From Far; Appunti su Palermo; Italiàn Ingegno; Lode al Silenzio; She's Leaving Home; Torre Ligny.
Personnel: Salvatore Bonafede: piano; Marcello Pellitteri: drums; Marco Panascia: acoustic and electric basses.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
Login to your All About Jazz member account to submit articles and press releases, upload images, edit musician profiles, add events and business listings, communicate with other members via personal messages, submit inqueries or contribute any content.