The pairing of a piano and a guitar – though not so rare in popular music of any style – makes for unusual and often brilliant harmonic colouration. The piano is, after all at its heart, a stringed instrument but the music being produced by means of the effect of a series of hammers can produce a many-splendoured effect. Meanwhile the guitar – played by means of plucking [that is pizzicato] might also have a kind of percussive effect. But when it is played as dexterously as it is by Francesco Cataldo much more seems to occur in the lyrical miniatures that are this music.
The guitar, in Mr Cataldo’s elegant hands has a huge vocabulary of sounds and effects which, when combined [both with other effects and sounds he is able to extract from his instrument and with the piano and other instruments in this ensemble] make it sound as if it is as big as an ensemble in and of itself. Francesco Cataldo has the requisite virtuosity and insight into his instrument to make that happen and he deploys them judiciously throughout this beautiful repertoire.
They range from harmonics and [of course] pizzicato to technique exotica such as “nut-side”, “nail-Sizzle” and “bi-tone tapping” all of which Mr Cataldo combines with a battery of percussion special effects [his guitar seems to come with a drum set attached]. All of this makes for a sound as big as the ensemble itself. Of course, Mr Cataldo is astute enough to acknowledge the considerable musicianship of his musical cohort even as he plays piano on “Two Ways”.
The piano parts – especially those played so poetically and eloquently by someone of the immense calibre of Marc Copland – together with those played by Mr Cataldo make the harmonic canvas exponentially larger. Add to that the erudite and glorious rumbling of the contrabass in the hands of Pietro Leveratto and the incomparable Adam Nussbaum’s percussion coloring – musical rattle and hum, and elegant sizzle of cymbals – and you have marvellous music that will live in your sensibilities long after the album itself runs out. The sheer beauty of song after song in Giulia – all of which unfurl like diaphanous silk – make for a musical soundscape that is irresistible, and an album to die for.
Track list – 1: I Tuoi Colori [Prologo]; 2: Guilia; 3: Levante; 4: Waltz for Two; 5: Two Ways; 6: Joy and Pain; 7: Two Colours; 8: So Small so Big; 9: Two Ways [Reprise]; 10: Circles [Epilogo]
Personnel – Vito Francesco Cataldo: arrangements, guitars and piano [5, 9]; Marc Copland: piano; Pietro Leveratto: contrabass; Adam Nussbaum: drums
Released – 2020
Label – Alfa Music [AFMCD 225]
Runtime – 49:30