(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
One of the many pleasures in being a music fan in this day and age is seeing artists from years past revisiting their craft. Some of them don’t do such a good job and others seem to pick things up right where they left off. The Italian band Arti & Mestieri is an excellent example of the latter. The band regrouped around the turn of the century and although some of the original members that came back are now gone, they are making a fantastic effort in reliving their music.
The band played the world-renowned US festival Progday in 2003. I wish I had attended that year because I heard they put on an unbelievable performance. In June of 2005 the group put on a concert at Tokyo’s Club Cittá and this is the show featured on this CD. The band is so good here that it’s literally impossible to tell that this isn’t a recording that dates from the 70s. Maybe the excellent sound quality would give it away.
I said earlier that most of the original members of the band are gone; well, they kept the important ones. Keyboardist Beppe Crovella uses a really nice collection of vintage keyboards including Hammond Organ, Fender Rhodes, acoustic piano and more that a fair share of Mellotron along with some more modern sounding synthesizers. The member that everyone talks about though, is drummer Furio Chirico. This guy is still a monster on the kit. He hasn’t slowed down a bit. His mastery of the drums has often led to him being compared to such legends as Billy Cobham, Tony Williams and Jon Hiseman. Not bad company to be in at all and I’m happy to say that he’s still as great a player as he ever was.
The rest of the band is very impressive as well. Veteran jazz player Alfredo Ponissi lends a hand or three on tenor, alto and baritone sax as well as flute. Roberto Cassetta contributes electric bass and backing vocals. Roberto also plays on Beppe’s recent solo album Keyboards’ Tilt. Perhaps my favorite of the newer members is violin player Lautaro Acosta who puts on an excellent performance. Rounding out the band is guitarist Marco Roagna and flamboyant vocalist Lano Nicoló. Each instrument is important to A&M’s overall sound and these guys all do remarkably well.
The bulk of the material on this performance is taken from the band’s two classic 70s albums Tilt and Giro di valzer per domani. They do several tracks from each album and combine them into two suites of music. There is an abundance of very impressive playing and very little pointless showboating. Lano wanders out into weird Demetrio Stratos territory on “Aria pesante”, something I don’t remember from the original album but it is entertaining.
After the suites there are six more tracks on the album. “Kawasaki” is a beautiful solo piano piece. “Glory” is nice mellow acoustic song taken from the band’s 2002 release Articollezione. “Marilyn” is another one from Giro di valzer per domani transformed here into a piano/drum duet with a little soprano sax added at the end. The final three tunes are from Murales which was the A&M comeback album released in 2000. I haven’t heard this one yet but from these tracks, I think I may need to correct that. I especially like the track “2000” which has some amazing Hammond organ playing from Beppe.
If the music on this CD is any indication (and I know it is), the people in Tokyo this night were treated to an amazing show. I just hope they get a chance to play around here one more time before they call it a day. I don’t want to kick myself for missing this band when I had a chance. Even if I don’t get to see them, it’s reassuring to know that they could still recapture the magic they had in the 70s and this album is a document of that.
(All Album Reviews by BrianG)
Arti & Mestieri 's newest album was recorded live in concert in June, 2005 at Club Citta in Kawasaki, Japan. The set list included spirited rendition of the Tilt album minus three songs, seven tracks from their release Giro Di Valzer Per Domani, and six more recent tracks. The songs easily segue without a rest until the end of each suite, only allowing the Japanese audience to show their restrained affection rarely.
Their music follows in the footsteps of Return to Forever, some PFM, and the lighter side of Mahavishnu Orchestra. They never stray into Canterbury territory and follow the scripted chord changes fairly tightly.
Due to their tight instrumentation, the band has a big sound, sometimes like one of Zappa's jazz orchestras toned way down, sometimes like an enhanced Weather Report or the Dixie Dregs. Although their songwriting is quite innovative and unique, I would say those bands have the greatest influence on the group's playing and arranging. The vocals (all in Italian) are not the centerpiece of the music, but offer another instrument to be arranged into the song.
There is plenty of mellotron from Beppe Crovella, and the instrumental solos, duets and trios abound using sax, electric violin, electric piano, bass, and clarinet. "Strips" includes wonderful violin solos behind electronic grand piano. Often a languid section breaks into an instrumental duel.
Some of the tracks are much more arranged than others, leaving you with the feeling that the show drifted off of and onto their pre-arranged schedule. If you know Arti y Misteri, you will note the great production values of this album, the tight musicianship and the band's enthusiasm, even after thirty years. If you are new to the band, then this will guarantee your follow up with at least the first two albums.