With Sissy on vocals, she is joined by Tim Ray on piano, Jesse Williams on bass, Lihi Haruvi on soprano saxophone, Jamey Haddad percussion, and Jorge Perez-Albela on drums, Cajon and Djembe. They are joined by special guests Puccio Castrogiovanni on marranzano, pipes, and vocals, Claudio Ragazzi on guitar, Fabio Pirozzolo on frame drums, and Marcus Santos on percussion. They are supported fire a five-piece string section and eight-voice backing vocals.
The album opens with Gandalf (Wayfaring Stranger), a traditional American melody arranged by Sissy herself. The subject, of course, is Tolkien’s wise wizard who ignites purpose and passion and brings a smile. Tim Ray’s piano is a wandering stroll through the beauty of surroundings, full of life and meaning. Lihi Haruvi’s soprano sax comes on top of the piano and the passion and drive are riveting. Through it all, Sissy’s vocals soar and penetrate. Haddad and Perez-Albela provide rhythms with the pace of Shadowfax on a dead run. The piece ends beautifully with Sissy’s intonations.
A Sissy original, ‘A Panza (Guts), is about experiencing that double heartbeat of particular situations where one's guts are speaking to them. Sissy's message is that your guts are always right. It is straight-ahead vocals with tight support from the band and features Claudio Ragazzi no the first of his two appearances on the album.
Magia (Magic) features Claudio Ragazzi on guitar again. The song centers on the idea that wonderful opportunities always arrive and we should indulge our fantasies to make the world a better place. The wonderful vocal chorus sings with Sissy and the anthemic results are accompanied by Ragazzi’s acoustic guitar and the rhythm section. The trades between Ragazzi and Ray are one of the coolest parts of the piece. Haruvi’s soprano sax drifts on the fringes of the piece but adds a fine texture to the work.
‘Nsonna is another Ssisy original with the string arrangements by Tim Ray. The song was inspired by Sissy's son Manuel whom she encourages to dream big and dream always. The dreamy piano introduction is sweet (in a good way) the warmth and affection of Sissy’s vocals are priceless. The strings dominate the last section of the song until Sissy and Ray close the piece as it was begun.
Ancili (Angels) is about unexpected moments and words that surprise us in their intensity and timeliness. The chorus returns like an angelic choir as the band creates all the warmth and comforting passages that are associated such moments of encounter.
A lover who goes away
A stranger becoming familiar
A thought that doesn’t go away
And we don’t know how come it is there
Jesse Williams’ bass has some cool moments in the background and then a solo that is both subtle and profound.
Ama (Love) is a lively, optimistic piece on why we are here—to LOVE. Sissy’s vocals are affectionate, wistful, playful, and moving in their delivery. The rhythms of Haddad, Perez-Albela, and guest Marcus Santos are solid with the percussive playing of Ray on piano. Ray cuts loose with a fine solo half-way as the rhythm sections keeps up the tight groove.
Terra (Earth) is more about the life of Earth. Sissy plays on the idea of a living Earth, dancing among the stars and planets, now suffering at the hands of humanity. There are passages that are lively, then melancholy, then mournful. The fragile touch of the soprano sax along with the drifting piano creates images of our home in all it’s delicacy. Sissy follows the soprano sax’s solo with an impassioned plea on behalf of home.
Paci (Peace) speaks of lessons learned—and not always rightly—and the forgiveness that is essential to our progress and even survival. Ray’s piano accompanies the dialogue between Sissy and Puccio Castrogiovanni. Jorge Perez-Albela provides drumming that is worth special attention. The instrumental interludes are wonderful and the choral runs are great listening.
Stranizza D’Amuri (Strangeness of Love) was arranged by Nando Michelin and opens with a sweet bass solo before being joined by Sissy’s lush vocals. Piano and drums join in and the whole band surrounds an energetic soprano sax. Sissy sings,
And when I meet you in the street
I feel a shock in my heart,
Though death is raging outside
The miracle of love does not die
E Vui Durmiti Ancora (You still Sleep) is a traditional Sicilian song with lyrics by Giovanni Formisano, arranged by Juan Andres Ospina. It is not a lullaby but rather a call to awaken.
The sun has already appeared on the sea
And you my darling still sleep
The birds are tired of singing
They are rested on this little boat
And they wait when it is that
You'll look out the window
The melody is beautiful and moving and Sissy’s vocals are full of longing and loving. The strings give wings to the melody and Ray’s piano is touching. An excellent way to close the album.
Sissy Castrogiovanni’s Terra is a description of, and a prescription for, life in harmony—harmony with the world, the human family, and ourselves. The compositions and arrangements are remarkable and the performances are stellar. The album is more than a CD, it is a philosophical-spiritual treatise.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl