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Carlo Actis Dato: The Moonwalker

AAJ Staff By

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Never one to be longwinded about his ideas, Carlo Actis Dato dashes off twenty quickies on The Moonwalker. Only one of these solo tunes is longer than four minutes; the rest hover in the range where short attention spans stay satisfied. Typically clever and quick-witted, Dato isn't above making fun of himself (as he does with a vocal interchange at the conclusion of "Banda Sbandata," which ends in what can only be described as a last gasp).

Dato has led several fine quartet recordings and played on one previous solo record ( Urartu ) on Leo. His work on the low end of the reed spectrum offers a fascinating contrast between the deep, smooth resonance inherent to the instrument and the sharp edges of the overtones he superimposes on top. Through the ever-shifting winds of The Moonwalker, one can observe a few outstanding themes—despite Dato's best efforts to constantly distract the listener. The reedist possesses a keen sense of rhythm, which manifests itself best during staccato, riff-laden passages. The spark behind much of this rhythmic emphasis derives from his explosive attack on the instrument, literally "popping" notes right out to give them dynamite punch. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your tolerance for sudden change), Dato rarely holds a groove for long before he distractedly heads off elsewhere.

Though he does his best to take things lightly, Carlo Actis Dato has a rare command of his instrument. Slap-tonguing, multiphonics, and various overblown harmonic textures serve as but a few tools in Dato's kit. But instead of stealing the spotlight, they serve subordinate roles. For example, the Eastern-tinged "Oujda" literally overflows with tonal color, but the theme remains so insistently minor-key and lyrical that the pyrotechnics do not dominate. Similar observations apply to Dato's three-part Rap parody ("Bad Rap" 1, 2, and 3). After the boom-bap rhythms set in, his library of extended techniques falls in line at their service.

Just to keep things interesting, Dato throws in minute-long samples every three or four tracks. These field recordings document children's groups, radio broadcasts, street performers, and religious ceremonies from various stops on his Asian and African journeys. There's no sense in resisting the overwhelming force of chaos on The Moonwalker. Carlo Actis Dato is at the helm of this space ship, and he's making stops all over the galaxy. Highly recommended! (Unless, of course, you're not planning on paying attention.)


Track Listing: Arigato; Bad Rap 1; Fusi Orari; Thai Children; Apaches; Cocodi; Sikasso; Bloody Christmas; Banda Sbandata; Kathmandu; Iga; Wonderful World; Marina; Wine & Water; Bad Rap 2; Marrakech; Oujda; Latin Lover; Witches; Basta la Pasta; Bali; Mikhail; Mambo n. 55; El Oued; Gamelan; Bad Rap 3; Arigato; Mali.

Personnel: Carlo Actis Dato: baritone and tenor saxophones; bass clarinet.

Title: The Moonwalker | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Leo Records

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