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Music Review: Claudio Scolari’s Project – Synthesis

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Building on the positive reaction to their initial release, Colors of Red Island, multi instrumentalists Claudio Scolari, Daniele Cavalca and trumpeter Simone Scolari (Claudio Scolari’s Project) are out with their sophomore release, Synthesis. It is an album of seven original pieces that build global echoes on a modern jazz base. As his biographical information indicates, Claudio Scolari, perhaps most often identified as a drummer and percussionist, “has always been focused on the study of timbre with regard to his instruments, paying particular attention to the compositional aspect and to the writing techniques of contemporary jazz, jazz rock and electronic music. His way of organising sound elements shows a clear intention to delve into ancient sonority in which rhythm mingles with instrumental noise and timbre, supported by modern keyboards and sequencers.”

Along with drums and percussion, Claudio is credited with flute, piano and synths. Cavalca joins in with the melodica, drums, percussion, piano, synths, vibraphone and bass, but his central role is playing drums. Both take composing credit. Simone, Claudio’s son, limits himself to the trumpet, but as the liner notes explain, he plays a “significant role in the project.” He is responsible for playing the lead lines in most of the songs. Still a conservatory student, they point out that he is still honing his improvisational chops, yet there are times when he gets a sweet sound that reminds me of the sound of Miles Davis on an album like Sketches of Spain.

Synthesis is the right title for this album. The Project’s music is an adventurous melding of melody and rhythm, sonority and dissonance. At times, it seems best to describe what they are doing as free jazz; at other times, they seem almost traditional. Taken all together, this is truly original music embracing a variety of styles. Opening with the title song where an introductory trumpet melody with a blues vibe is assaulted by what at first seems to be random percussive noise, it doesn’t take long for the various instrumental voices to, what else, synthesize. It is a foreshadowing of what is to come.

“Expression of Image” follows with an exotic opening that reminds me of Rodrigo—perhaps that’s where the Miles Davis comes from—but the tempo changes very quickly and the tune takes off in another direction. “Dialogue,” at a bit over 14 minutes the longest track on the album, is a “trumpetless” conversation between the piano and the other instruments, although at times it seems much like a “dialogue of the mind with itself.” “Rituals” plays with Latin rhythms and “Fragment of Autumn” has an exotic Middle Eastern feel, as well as some sweet trumpet lines. “Rebirth,” on the other hand, exults in a veritable dramatic cacophony. The album ends on a subtler note with a quieter track, “Hymn of the Inventions.”

Synthesis is an intriguing album filled with a wealth of interesting new ideas. You have to give it a chance. It is the kind of album that gives more, the more you listen. Each new hearing leaves you more impressed not only with what Claudio Scolari’s Project is trying to do, but what they have already managed to do.

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About Jack Goodstein