Last year, Marco Cappelli made a surprisingly delightful tribute with his Italian Surf Academy of the music that accompanied Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti westerns (The American Dream). This time around Marco Cappelli returns to his Acoustic Trio for yet another celebration of modern Italian arts where the music style is simply the byproduct of the mood he seeks to create, not the ends to a means.
Le Stagioni del Commissario Ricciardi was inspired by four novels given to Cappelli by their author, Maurizio De Giovanni, all of which the central character is a police investigator in 1930′s Naples, Detective Ricciardi. The character and his adventures set in Fascist Italy became the nexus point for his songs and performances with bassist Ken Filiano and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Cappelli himself plays nylon string classical guitar modified with eight additional sympathetic resonating strings. It’s an acoustic trio that sounds unlike any other acoustic trio, but that has more to do with the songs and how they’re played, not Cappelli’s tricked up fretted instrument.
Feting the work of a novelist is nothing novel for the Acoustic Trio; they honored the Frenchman Fred Vargas’ work a few years ago with Les Nuages En France. In creating a soundtrack of sorts to Detective Ricciardi’s world, Cappelli relies on his tried-and-true method of combining strict, composed constructions with free form improv, but critically, he and his partners do so in a way where the two opposed components flow right into each other. The mood rules over all else, that’s why.
Indeed, “Detective Ricciardi” has all the suspense and drama of a detective movie; its strident theme soon makes way for group improv but as an extension of theme. Another motif is funky, and the spacious drumming by Takeishi gives the song a kick in the pants. The bass and drums are part of an all-front line for “Sergeant Maione,” the trio collectively improvising and comping at once. Out of nowhere, Cappelli breaks out into a pretty, flamenco-like melody near the end of the performance.
Different little devices distinguish each song, adding to the strong element of surprise already present on every tune. Cappelli applies some odd tuning on the fly to his guitar as Filiano solos on arco bass during much of “Enrica,” and “Deputy Police Chief Garzo” repeats an ascending figure over and over accentuated by pauses. A gentle waltz becomes overcome by Takeishi’s thrashing by the time of its climatic ending.
“O’Peteterno nun e’mercante (ca pava o’ sabbato),” which means “God is not a merchant who pays on the due date,” is a group improv to start, but finds its groove thanks to Takeishi’s supple percussion. The three remain tightly integrated even as they continue to improvise, and a strategic switch to bowed bass brings more drama and density as the song briefly takes a classical turn. The song transit from formless to formed, builds intensity and gradually fades. Maybe it’s assuming the character of De Giovanni’s suite of novels and maybe it’s not. But over the course of this album, Marco Cappelli strived to represent the feeling he undoubtedly got from reading these stories. Le Stagioni del Commissario Ricciardi triumphs because he and his Acoustic Trio colleagues did the job in transmitting that feeling to the listener.