Monday, November 23, 2020

Record Review: The Invisible Child by Andrea Marcelli (2019)

The Invisible Child, an album of unreleased and live recordings by Italian jazz drummer Andrea Marcelli arrived at the right moment: listened to during the second lockdown, it's an album about spaces and distances, about solitude and togetherness.

Distances, a track in the album, offers some explanation, both in the choice of title and the story it tells of our lives during the time of physical distancing. It acknowledges the gloom but remains hopeful, moves forward and adds colour to the grey moments.

The "invisible child" in Marcelli hasn't ceased to wonder since he became the first Italian to record a solo album for the Verve back in 1989. (The resulted LP, Silent Will, featuring Wayne Shorter, was successful enough to lead to a second recording and Marcelli's subsequent move to the US where he lived for 12 years before moving back to Europe and this time settling in Berlin.) The album covers the last two decades of his musical life, confirming that it has been worthwhile in every sense.

The majority of compositions are by Marcelli or written in collaboration with his band-mates. Yet, those which are not his (Bach, Verdi and Duke Ellington) should tell as much about Marcelli as the originals.

In spite of a certain air of solitude that the album established with its opening track, the elegantly melancholic Siciliano in which Marcelli plays a lilting clarinet, the album is a victory against "distances" in its internationalist nature as musicians of at least seven different nationalities are involved.

The concept behind the collection of songs in the album is musical dialogue and exchange. It shows interest in the space that comes between the two or more musicians at work, the buffer zone whose filling up or emptying of ideas, energy and ardor becomes as telling (especially if also "observed" live) as the material upon which they build that space of musical interaction.

Of the brilliant dialogues and musical interactions here I can point out the one with pianist Ekkehard Wölk in Siciliano, part of their more extended Bach project, an ongoing investigation of the music of baroque composer through jazz and swing traditions. Another Wölk-related chapter involves three tracks by the trio Blanc et Noir (the third member is Kristoff Becker), recorded in a Berlin in 2016 whose cinematic, mood-evoking and story-telling kind of music is hardly accidental as it was originally formed to accompany silent films. However, this live recording shows they could also easily function without a projector projecting images for their cue or inspiration.

One of the most accomplished lineups on this record belongs to the most international of them, a quintet performing a subtle, toned down version of hard bop, one you could hear in the late 1980s Contemporary recordings by Art Farmer. This band, recorded in Copenhagen in 2002, features talents such the Swedish 12-string guitarman Bjarne Roupé, the Italian soprano sax player Fabrizio Mandolini, the Finnish trumpeter Jarkko Hakala, and the German bassist Andrea Markus. Together they perform the remarkable title tune.

The album now functions as the perfect blues-remover in the blue and grey days of the second lockdown, an album in which the music in its contemplative nature prepares for and invites to better days. After all, it ends with Ellington's Caravan which is all about travelling, moving and encountering new things. I cherish Marcelli's message of hope even if it was not originally designed as such. Listening to his music one also reminded that life is about these meaningful coincidences.

The Invisible Child: Live and Unreleased 2000-2016 by Andrea Marcelli is available from Da Vinci Publishing.

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