Daniele D’Agaro, Mauro Ottolini, Simone Zanchini | Up & Down

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This article represents a further phase of the journey undertaken by ReMusic to discover the Italian independent musical production. We have started with SardMusic to carry on with Red Records, Egea and, recently, Velut Luna. You feel very pleased and proud of your country in knowing how much finest music has been producing in Italy, far from the spots of the national/popular/melodic/songwriting limelight. Finest music does not mean only well performed, but provided of a tangible cultural and artistic depth. Artesuono is a blatant example of how, from a local reality, can generate a protagonist project on worldwide scale. The start is in the '90s as recording studio in Cavalicco, near Udine (Northeast of Italy). The owner, Stefano Amerio, is a piano student struck, in his teens, by a series of presents that will imprint his life: a battery Lesa Mady portable turntable, a Kaway upright piano, a multi-track Tascam Porta One and a dynamic Audio Technica microphone. Everything else comes from Paul White's books on acoustic and sound engineering. Jazz music has become a natural haven of interest, because it is an acoustic genre and the sound recordings are direct, without any overdub.


Electric Five' s drummer U.T. Gandhi has been the bridge to the introduction of Enrico Rava, who asked to record his return in ECM using Artesuono studios, notwithstanding the owner's skepticism. From that meeting arouse an intense collaboration with Manfred Eicher's label and a nomination at the Grammy Awards with the album Distances by Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing. To give you an idea of Amerio's concept of recording, I quote him: "In this kind of work you cannot be aseptic and impartial. We are talking of art transferred on a support. Hence, the sensitiveness is paramount. It is about aesthetical-musical sensitiveness for the sound and the performers". Any other comment is meaningless.

Artesuono is a recording studio and a record label and this dualism has attracted many fantastic musicians, who share an idea of music definitely outside the traditional schemes and, most of all, available to the creative interaction. Jazz is the humus to feed Artesuono's artistic offer, even if jazz is the most important form of '900 art and cannot be repressed in pre-established schemes or definitions.


The two albums that from a couple of weeks have been playing on my CD player came to life in a context of absolute expressive freedom. The first one is Up & Down and features Daniele D’Agaro, Mauro Ottolini and Simone Zanchini.


D’Agaro plays the clarinet, the bass clarinet, the tenor sax and the C melody sax. He boasts several musical experiences. In youth, between Berlin and Amsterdam, he developed the art of jazz and improvisation, with some intrusions in Kwela, a typical world music from South African townships, and in ethnic music in collaboration with the Gruppo Etnico a Corde of Val Resia, or also with Mola Sylla, a griot Senegalese singer. Then he moved to liturgical organ and proposed the post-Gregorian Discanti Aquileiesi, besides music from Duke Ellington's sacred concerts. He played and taught in the States before coming back to Italy where he deepened the experimentation in the most multifaceted bands, also from an instrumental point of view.


Mauro Ottolini starts his career as member of the Orchestra - Arena di Verona but his inclinations towards jazz bring him to collaborate with free and vanguard artists. His specialization is the trombone, but he plays all the bass instruments, like flugelhorn, tuba and sousaphone (from Wikipedia: the sousaphone is a brass instrument, related to the tuba and hélicon. It is widely employed in marching band and tanjidor. Designed so that it fits around the body of the musician and is supported by the left shoulder, the sousaphone may be readily played while being carried. The instrument is named after American bandmaster and composer John Philip Sousa, who popularized its use in his band). He has also collaborated with pop music performers like Dalla, Capossela, Grace Jones, opera singers like Pavarotti, and funk singers like James Brown. He comes back to jazz with Enrico Rava, Gianluca Petrella and Francesco Bearzetti. He boasts a curriculum of ten records and 150 participations.


Simone Zanchini is a virtuoso accordion player whose aim is to raise the accordion as a leading instrument in jazz and in contemporary, erudite, extemporary, acoustical or electronic music. After the graduation at the Pesaro Conservatory, his career led him to perform in the most famous jazz festivals in Italy and abroad and with well-known artists like Girotto, Trovesi, Lavacic, Dulbecco, Tommaso, Fresu, Mirabassi, Nussbaum, Bennink and the legendary Bill Evans. He recorded twenty albums all aimed to subvert the expressive rules usually related to his instrument.

Up & Down is an album that contains and condensates many of the three soloists' experiences. Except for three pieces by Duke Ellington and one by Don Cherry, all the compositions are at two or six hands. The record is a hymn to improvisation and, for this reason, is very difficult to contextualize. This musical style, made of incessant dissonances, open schemes and rhythmic tensions, remains genetically instinctive, wild, but it is a language and, even though without an order, has its own-form.


The references to the roots of jazz are in Doin’ The Voom Voom, Black and Tan Fantasy and Up & Down by Ellington where they evoke the pureness, the primordial, the authentic, and explode in a cluster that proposes many stylistic directions that have to be imagined. The sounds are open, multiform, lively, with a great presence of the brasses and with the accordion making a rhythmic support as happens in a big band, without disdaining suggestive and original soloist lines.

The top of improvisation is reached in Franco Castel, Pi Greco and Kalippos where accordion and brasses seem distant but find themselves somewhere in few riffs. Intriguing is Matti Pellonpää, so rich of Balkan melancholy and with the accordion in some parts playing like an organ.

A surprise is the choice of Art Deco that belongs to a non-experimental Cherry, adapted in a funny swing version where protagonist are the dampers.

Only in If I’d go to heaven before you do there is a melodic theme. The instruments play discreet creating a very involving ambience. Thrilling!

Cagliostro is an incredible atypical piece, where the three performers are very able in recreating a three-dimensional realistic medieval chemical laboratory. Listen to it in a dim room...disquieting!

Bashaw Blues is the proper end of the work, with an explicit homage to New Orleans jazz and to its sense of freedom and joy, which has never been changed from the '20s.




Daniele D’Agaro/Mauro Ottolini/Simone Zanchini

Up & Down



Total time 48’20’’


by Giuseppe
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