This exquisite disc Cinema City, from the captivating vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi, celebrates the music of great Italian cinema music – largely in the form of ballads. As it is this is warmly compassionate music, which positively glows with its soaring, beautifully arched melodic lines, sung with seductive ingenuity by Miss Minnozzi, accompanied by the dynamic playing of a splendid group of musicians from Brasil, and the inimitable guitarist Paul Ricci, who has also credited with co-arranging and co-producing this set.
Mafalda Minnozzi’s approach to these classic songs – written by [among others] the great Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, Carmine Coppola and Henry Mancini – is from the feminine viewpoint, with deep emphasis upon wonderment, humility, elements of the bittersweet heartache and often sadness, always evocative of uplifting vulnerability. The derivative idiom is thoroughly tonal, the tone luxurious and the works cast at a predominantly whispered, almost prayerful slow pace. The three songs from Cinema Paradiso: the “Love Theme…” [Composed by Andrea Morricone], “Se” and “Maturity” [by Ennio Morricone] are especially haunting.
Miss Minnozzi’s voice is gorgeous; lustrous and flawless as she digs into the meaning of each word and the emotions of particular phrases. Her voice is so whisper-soft, it feels like the lyrics emerge from her throat and chest voice, yet appear to be mere whispered breaths. And yet she manages to bring ceaseless dynamics to the soft nature of this music. Moreover the songs seem to speak to her in the secret of her heart so that they become “hers” when she sings them. But then, I’ve always believed her to be made almost entirely of music itself…
Paul Ricci’s playing is flawless. He seems to caress the strings of his guitars rather than pluck or glide his finger or nail across the strings. The Brasilian contingent of the group – pianist Tiago Costa, contrabassist Sidiel Viera and drummer Ricardo Mosca are fully attuned to the artistry and vision of Miss Minnozzi and Mr Ricci. The music is also set alight on many tracks by a constellation of big stars – Dave Liebman, whose playing on the “Love Theme…” from Cinema Paradiso combines breathtaking restraint and a sense of longing; Graham Haynes plays his cornet with radiant character on “Amici Miei” and his flugelhorn with hushed brilliance on “La dolce vita” by the incomparable Nino Rota.
Art Hirahara spacious and majestic soli on “Anonimo Veneziano” and “E la chiamano estate” adds a grand but poignant edge to the music. Flugelhorn specialist Luca Aquino is brilliant on “Nella Fantasia”, as he inhabits a special corner of this iconic song with his solo. And the dolor of Jorginho Neto’s trombone enables Miss Minnozzi to deliver “Arrivederci Roma” with heart-stopping emotion.
This may seem like “easy listening” to those naysayers and refusniks who think that way about film music sung apart from the soundtrack accompanying the motion picture, but this disc is full of its own richness and musical delight. That credit must go to Mafalda Minnozzi and the wonderful musicians who bring a cinematic feel to this music all over again.
Track list – 1: 1: La dolce vita; 2: Loss of love; 3: Metti una sera a cena; 4: Love theme – Nuovo Cinema Paradiso; 5: Amapola; 6: Amici miei; 7: Anonimo Veneziano [cuore cosa fai]; 8: E la chiamano estate; 9: Nella fantasia; 10: L’appuntamento [sentado à beira do caminho]; 11: Arrivederci Roma; 12: Se – Nuovo Cinema Paradiso; 13: Deborah’s Theme; 14: Maturity – Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
Personnel – Mafalda Minnozzi: vocals; Paul Ricci: electric guitar [1 – 4, 6 – 8, 10, 11, 13, 14]; baritone guitar [5, 10] and acoustic guitar [9, 12]; Tiago Costa: piano; Sidiel Viera: contrabass; Ricardo Mosca: drums. Special Guests – Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone ; Graham Haynes: flugelhorn , cornet  and electronic effects ; Art Hirahara: organ [5, 7, 8, 10, 13 – featured on 7, 8]; Luca Aquino: flugelhorn ; Jorginho Neto: trombone 
Released – 2022
Label – Musica Popolare Italiana [MPI 2319]
Runtime – 54:34
Featured photo of Mafalda Minnozzi by Murilo Alvesso