Slivovitz is comprised of Pietro Santangelo (tenor and alto sax), Marcelo Giannini (electric and acoustic guitars), Riccardo Villari (electric and acoustic violins), Ciro Riccardi (trumpet), Derek Di Perri (harmonica), Vincenzo Lamagna (bass) and Salvatore Rainone (drums).
The album cover is a whimsical cartoon of a donkey with an open mouth and Japanese Kanji reading “tabe hodai” and the English title “All You Can Eat.” Clearly, the table is set for a fun album. And that will be my last reference to food or buffets or eating.
The album is opened with “Persian nights” by Pietro Santangelo. Acoustic guitar and hand-tapped drums leadoff before an electric onslaught of guitar, bass and drums. Villari’s violin and Di Perri’s harmonica slide alongside and it is better than Kansas ever imagined.
The chord shifts are exhilarating and the lead shifts between guitar, harmonica and trumpet are just as fascinating. More than Jazz-Fusion or Progressive Rock, this is ripping, harmonic, furious eclecticism. Santangelo’s sax is powerful and melodic. This is stuff to make your head spin.
“Mani in Faccia” is Marcello Giannini’s composition. The hot violin is reminiscent of Eddie Jobson’s days with Frank Zappa or UK. The harmonica, guitar and bass all work the same melodic groove and the drums smoke below.
The crunchy guitar with violin is cool stuff but then the whole group thunders forth for a few bars and the bass and drums of Lamagna and Rainone are explosive. Then, out of the fury, that smoking groove closes out the track.
“Yahtzee” (Santangelo) opens with sweet alto sax and guitars with a washing cymbal behind. The beautiful violin comes in to join the guitar. Then the bass walks it to the transition.
The funky rhythmic line lays the foundation for Giannini’s Middle Eastern imagery. The attention to bass and drums while you feast your ears on the lead guitar. (Oh, damn. I said “feast.”)
The harmonic effect of the instruments is profound and moving. The structure of “Yahtzee” is extraordinary. So well done.
“Passannante" (Ciro Riccardi) is like big-band swing to start. Derek Di Perri’s harmonica over sax and trumpet is righteous stuff. The corps progression is full on fury in a brass and bass firefight. Remarkable.
“Barotrauma” (Santangelo) starts off with the touch of R&B that gives way to an expanding, even progressive, Jazz-Funk. The staggered delivery from harmonica, brass and guitar is punchy and jovial. A sorrowful tenor sax smooths out the melody as the rest flow warmly alongside. All the while, the crescendo builds to a fine and harmonious conclusion.
“Hangover” (Giannini) opens slowly with picked guitar and sax. The bass and drums serve as both support and propulsion.
The guitar and harmonica are in fine agreement. Villari’s violin takes the lead for an exquisite delivery of the theme. Guitar and sax take the melody to conclusion with the whole group in attendance.
“Currywurst” (Giannini) is the hottest piece of Funk on the album. The switches between leads and chorus from all of the artists are brilliant. All the while, the bass and drums keep the groove on fire. The building of the closing segment is steady until the fevered return to the theme.
“Oblio” (Giannini) is a thoroughly fascinating work of harmony and modulation. This is an astounding work of interaction. Santangelo’s sax is fabulous in cooperation with Giannini’s guitar and Villari’s violin. There are moments that recall the early days of King Crimson and you don’t get much better than that.
Tenor sax and violin are joined by Di Perri’s harmonica as the bass of Lamagna and drums of Rainone roll an agreement. The structure, the artistry, the emotion of “Oblio” are inescapable.
“All You Can Eat” is Slivovitz’s crowning achievement. The virtuosity of the artists is beyond doubt. However, it is the power and the beauty of the competitions that are so breathtaking. The instrumentation is staggering. I never expected this. Indeed, I could not have expected it at all. Hearing this album is like turning the corner of a busy street and walking right into the one you’ve awaited all your life.
~ Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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