Thursday, February 6, 2020

Multi-Cutural Inspiration : Giuseppe Paridiso's Median 71 "Metropolitan Sketches"

Guiseppe Paradiso Meridian 71 Metropolitan Sketches 
The Berklee School of Music, a veritable mecca for progressive music education, has transformed  Boston into an important, melting pot of musical multi-culturalism. Musicians attend the school to expose themselves to a nurturing environment that provides a talented and often legendary faculty, and the opportunity to play with and measure themselves against talented peers from around the world. The system has proven to be one of the most successful proving grounds for many of the jazz world's most progressive artists.

The Italian born drummer, Giuseppe Paradiso, is a young artist whose second album Metropolitan Sketches will be released on February 12, 2020. He is another product of the Berklee School of Music experience. Classically trained first in  Italy at the Conservatory of N. Piccinni in Bari, he expanded his repertoire by attending numerous jazz seminars and music competitions in both Italy and France. He won a four-year scholarship to Berklee and graduated the institution magna cum laude 2011. His trajectory included attending seminars that exposed him to world-class players/educators including Teri Lynne Carrington, Ron Carter, Antonio Sanchez, Peter Erskine, and Elvin Jones to name a few.

On Metropolitan Sketchesthe drummer presents and performs seven of his compositions and one arrangement of Puccini, with bonus tracks that offer two alternate takes, and you can hear the multi-culturalism in his music. The band, Meridian 71, is comprised of members that are truly representative of their internationally diverse backgrounds. Besides Paradiso's Italian roots, the group includes the Senegalese griot and percussionist Malick Ngom,  the 'Turkish pianist and educator Utar Artun, Finnish born and Middle Eastern and East African influenced guitarist and oud player Jussi Reijonen, Massachusetts born saxophonist and educator Mark Zaleski, fretless electric bassist Galen Willett and guest appearances by local musicians, trumpeter Phil Grenadier and guitarist Phil Sargent.

The music is creative and starts off in a driving, progressive vibe reminiscent of Weather Report on the composition titled "Nomvula" which means "Mother of Rain." The music features a punctuated and jarring percussion-driven opening that morphs into a more melodic sway over modulating Reijonen guitar chords and some effective percussion accents.  Zaleski's punctuating sax parts grab you by the throat and pianistic lines by Artun soften the attack. The music shifts time and builds tension effectively by using ostinato piano and throbbing bass lines that allow Paradiso and Ngom to make a rhythmically potent statement.

"Spring" is a beautifully melodic stroll through a musical wildflower garden; spring in bloom. The song features some sensitive guitar work by Sargent or Reijonei (not sure which), powerfully focused and resonant bass lines by Willett and delicate accompanying by Artun on a Rhodes. Phil Grenadier's gorgeous trumpet sound soars transcendently over the verdant background like a bird resplendently letting his wings catch the wind in a joyous celebration of the season.
Giuseppe Paradiso 
Paradiso includes a three composition suite of music that musically represents the ethnic vagabond gypsy heritage of the drummer's mother.  The first piece "Introduction to Tuntkah"  is a rhythmic depiction of a caravan with all its cacophonous sounds and relentless drone of motion as creatively depicted by the interwoven drums and percussion employed so effectively by Paradiso.

"Tuntkah" (The Nomad King) is a  musical potpourri of voices that meld together brilliantly in a middle eastern-inspired procession. Zaleski and Grenadier join voices in sympathetic unison and separate at times harmonically and in solo, as the rhythm section of bass, piano and drums keep the motion sauntering forward. The music has a hypnotic serpentine motion to it, accentuated by the creative electronic guitar work, perhaps by Sargent, creating and exploring with otherworldy taste and Grenadier's trumpet in counterpoint. These guys are never lacking for musical inventiveness and this one is captivating with the cornucopia of sounds employed so effectively. The song ends with the interjected sounds of a departing subway on the tracks.

The third of Paradiso's suite is titled "A Partial Life Story," which starts off with again adds sounds seemingly from a busy landing at a train station. The music is sensitively played by Artun's piano before the music's pace is increased by Paradiso's drums and an excitable and eerie snake-charming soprano by Zaleski adding to the tension to an apex.

"Casamance" is an energetic composition by Paradiso and Ngom that features the two percussionists displaying their poly-rhythmic simpatico.

Classically grounded, "Lucevan le Stelle," is an emotive Puccini composition arranged by Paradiso and features Zaleski's soprano in counterpoint to Artun's piano, Willett's bass, and Grenadier's trumpet. The music is searching, probing and adventurous in the liberated arrangement.

The title track "Metropolitan Sketches," is a cooker and returns to another Weather Report inspired funk/fusion style. Willet's bass leads with a facile, distinctively funky opening. Electronically augmented guitar lines by Reijonen lay down the rhythmic carpet and Zaleski's alto plays over it with a deliberately anxious authority. Artun has his most frenetic piano solo with percussive use of two-handed block chording, as Paradiso, Ngom, and Willett fortify the drive with synchronized power. The music pulses with energy and the world music-inspired rhythmic creativity by Ngom at the coda is a treat. These guys are a band that surprise and deserve to be followed.

The album ends with two alternative and intriguing takes on previously played songs. The romantic "Spring,"  features Grenadier on muted trumpet and "Lucevan le Stelle," with a more organic sounding Zaleski soprano and an even more experimental free take by the group. Both alternates show the band's creative nature, a willingness to explore multiple concepts to achieve the right feel.