Lello Molinari continues his inspired exploration of Italian music and culture with a new recording, entitled Lello’s Italian Job, Volume 2.
While he had planned to introduce his new sound with a CD release concert on Tuesday, March 13 at The Regattabar, a fierce nor’easter hit Boston and just about everywhere else, causing the show to be canceled and rescheduled for Tuesday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m.
From reports ahead of the planned show, comments made about the new release claim that Molinari is returning to his Italian roots and reimagining a classic repertoire in a stunning modern jazz setting.
As for what reviewers felt about Molinari’s Volume 1, we hear this from Stacey Zering in No Depression,“Lello’s Italian Job, Volume 1
is a dynamic showcase for [Molinari’s] instrumental skills…covering an all-star roster of Italian musical icons with passion, respect, and imagination.”
And from Thomas Conrad of DownBeat, “Molinari’s music: in your face, a little raw, fiercely alive.”
Given these insights, you can only imagine the disappointment experienced by jazz aficionados when the timing of the storm hit with Molinari’s blasting onto the stage.
But not all was lost; the planned replacement performance will feature Italian and Italian-American musicians with Molinari, excited to meet with fans and work his acoustic and electric bass.
Accompanying him will likely be Dino Govoni on saxophones, clarinet, flute, and EWI (electronic wind instruments); Sal DiFusco on acoustic and electric guitar; and Marcello Pellitteri reigning on drums
It’s often been said that “you can’t go home again”—but with his Italian Job project, Molinari proves that old cliché wrong. The acclaimed bassist has not only returned to his Italian roots, but brought with him three decades of experience as a bandleader, an educator, and a virtuosic bassist with his fingers on the pulse of modern jazz.
He views the unparalleled musical traditions of his homeland through the lens of a lifetime’s worth of accumulated musical knowledge, creating something that’s both Old World and New, and deeply personal while reflecting a profound tradition.
Molinari left his native Naples, Italy in 1986 to study jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. In the intervening years, he’s gone on to become a revered educator at that same institution, perform as an in-demand bassist on both the jazz and classical music scenes in Boston, tour the US and Europe with his quintet, and venture to the leading edges of jazz in partnership with saxophone great George Garzone.
In recent years, Molinari began to discover the wealth of musical riches to be found in the land of his birth.
That adventure began as part of his 2000 album, Multiple Personalities, which peppered three Italian tunes into an album that also veered from forward-leaning jazz to a Monk classic—featuring Garzone, guitarist Mick Goodrick, pianist Frank Carlberg, and renowned Italian vocalist Chiara Civello.
On the 2016 release, Lello’s Italian Job, Volume 1, he explored material from across the wide spectrum of Italian song—traditional folk music, classical arias, popular songs—and radically transformed them through his singular jazz voice. Now, with Lello’s Italian Job, Volume 2, he offers a second collection that marries timeless melodies to contemporary sounds.
“I had a desire to reconnect with my roots,” Molinari says. “But I also wanted to incorporate these new things that I’ve learned over the years here in the States to old material and give it a fresh look and a fresh take.”
As in the first volume, Molinari leads a quartet of stellar artists who share his Italian heritage—and are all members of the Berklee faculty. Drummer Pellitteri is a fellow immigrant, hailing originally from Sicily, while saxophonist Govoni and guitarist DiFusco are both Italian-American.
The repertoire for Volume 2 varies from a Respighi tone poem to popular Neapolitan songs that have been sung for generations, to original music penned for the project.
With centuries of musical history to delve into, Molinari found that the hardest part of the project has been whittling down his list to just enough to fill two volumes. “Rather than picking which songs to do, I had to think about which ones not to do,” he says. “If you think about Italian music, it’s like saying ‘Jazz’—there’s so much, and it’s so diverse that it’s impossible to put it in one place.
“Because I play with some orchestras, I’ve reconnected recently with classical music and opera. Then there are certain pieces of music that I just adore and that I wanted to do with my group in my way.”
The insistent tap of Pellitteri’s percussion opens “‘O Sarracino,” a popular song by legendary Neapolitan performer Renato Carosone, given a jazz-funk feel by Govoni’s keening soprano, Molinari’s slinky electric bass line, and DiFusco’s strummed groove
“Jazz Tarantella” takes the melody that is the bane of every Italian’s existence—you know the one, it accompanies every Italian stereotype and cartoon that’s ever appeared on screen—and reimagines it as an alluring straight-ahead jazz tune in the vein of Miles Davis’s “Dear Old Stockholm.”
DiFusco’s original “Sulla Strada di Damasco” follows, inspired by the story of the conversion of Saint Paul
and incorporating a vaguely Middle Eastern feel.
“Intermezzo Sinfonico,” from Pietro Mascagni’s operatic masterpiece Cavalleria Rusticana, is jolted into the present via Govoni’s EWI and Molinari’s harmonies on electric basses, while Pino Daniele’s “‘a Tazzulella ‘e Café” makes the unlikely journey from Napoli espresso bar to Bourbon Street coffeehouse in Molinari’s New Orleans-influenced arrangement.
“Lidio Napoletano” shows off the improvisational empathy of the trio, built on a short melody in the Lydian mode and created in homage to the treasured Boston band The Fringe, mainstays on the local scene for more than four decades.
Molinari is focused and reflective: “I guess as I get more mature, I don’t need to play ‘punk jazz’ anymore or do music that’s so difficult to listen to; I can enjoy a simple structure, a simple melody…Lello’s Italian Job lets me do both, reinterpreting this old material from a new, contemporary jazz point of view.”
Given a second chance, now may be the time to plan to join Molinari for what will be a storm of a release in May.
For information, call 617-395-7757 or visit bit.do/ItalianJob.