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Luca Ciarla: Violinair

Duncan Heining By

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"I would be interested to know what you think of my record." The reluctant reviewer takes the CD, heart sinking, thinking to themselves, "I very much doubt it." On this occasion, I am, however, grateful to Italian violinist, Luca Ciarla . He's certainly not without self-assurance but, fortunately, that confidence is well-matched by the genuine talent evident on Violinair.

Given a line-up featuring such instruments as violin and accordion, comparisons with the likes of Richard Galliano, Astor Piazzolla and even Reinhardt and Grappelli seem inevitable. But there's a great deal more here as well. Ciarla adds electronics and sound effects to the basic template of violin, accordion/piano, bass and drums—for example on opener "Re Mi-Lo Sol" -that recall the colours, textures and moods of some of Pat Metheny's work. Ciarla's Violinair also shares with Metheny a love of folk-inspired melodies, though here the diverse influences of musics from the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa are also present. These echoes are not just there in the albums original tunes like "Re Mi-Lo Sol," "L'Artigiana de Ostuni (Medley)" and "Pepi e Meme" but in the group's witty, intelligent takes on Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia" and Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol's "Caravan."

As for the playing, this is bravura stuff. The long notes and chords of Vince Abbracciante's accordion on "L'Artigiana de Ostuni" preface a series of descending/ascending melodic flourishes that lead into the album's showcase track. The pace then builds fugue-like, as first the acoustic bass of Nicola Di Camillo, then violin and then the perfectly measured drumming of Francesco Savoretti join together in what becomes a passionate and swirling dance. Elsewhere, Ciarla's solo on "Caravan" is quite stunning, as he spins new melodies from this 'oh, so familiar' tune, whilst the long, sustained glissandi on "Re Mi-Lo Sol" are simply gorgeous.

Sometimes, it is just a little too post-modern, a little too knowing. The medley of Monk tunes, "Epistrophy 'Round My Dear" is structured as a suite with each tune led over a bridge into the next. It seems rather episodic, when the opportunity for a more radical reading or even deconstruction is missed. But with such an enjoyable record such criticisms can feel like carping. How often does a record finish leaving one thinking it was over too darn soon. Violinair is a gem of a record from a violinist who has clearly absorbed the history of his instrument from Joe Venuti to Michal Urbaniak to become very much his own man.

Track Listing: Tracks: Re Mi-Lo Sol; Roulette & Caravan (Medley); Epistrophy ’Round My Dear (Medley); A Night in Tunisia; L’Artigiana de Ostuni (Medley); Pepi e Meme.

Personnel: Personnel: Luca Ciarla: violin, electronics, vocals, ocarina, baritone violin, whistling, toy instruments; Vince Abbracciante: accordion, piano; Nicola di Camillo: electric bass; double bass; Francesco Savoretti: percussion, drums.

Title: Violinair | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Violipiano Records

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