Dan Cavalca – Cinematic (2016)

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Italian percussionist, keyboardist, composer and sound architect Daniele Cavalca first got our notice with his collaborations with Claudio Scolari who is also a forward-thinking primarily drummer multi-instrumentalist and composer from Italy. Together, they made records of highly experimental, improvisational electronica-infused jazz fusion such as Colors of Red Island and Synthesis.

Since then, Cavalca has completed studies at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston and in keeping with the foreign environs also goes by the Americanized name “Dan.” His formal education didn’t transform him away from his strengths, but perhaps gave him more tools to flush out his musical vision and flair for using technology as a creative instrument and not a crutch in a stew of downtempo electronica, jazz, classical and pop. In using electronics he never leaves behind his proficiency on the drums, percussion, keyboards and other assorted instruments; instead, he rather skillfully uses each side at once to complement each other.

His first foray as a solo artist came with a 4-song EP, The 4 Seasons in 2014 but now comes his debut full-length release. Cinematic (from the Italian label Divinazione Milano Srl) mixes the organic and the digital but with all the artistry of the former; as illustrated in a cover of “Twisted Nerve,” (not on this album) Cavalca can do it all ‘live’ with the only help coming from his brother Michele on electric bass.

And speaking of movie soundtrack songs, the title Cinematic doesn’t mean there are any of those on this record — Cavalca writes all these songs — but it does have a soundtrack pulse to it. That’s a Scolari/Cavalca hallmark, which I once described as “mysterious, winding and nuanced, (it’s) soundtrack music to some imaginary movie.” Michele Cavalca once again lends his bass for Cinematic while Dan is responsible for everything else: synth, piano, percussion, and of course, drums.

“Life Time Lapse” launches the album and it’s what I call a ‘headphone’ song. Such an intimate listen not only reveals the full effect of the synth ambience washing over the ears but also the precise, hand-delivered drumming playing apace with the electronics. The “Noise” version of this is luxuriantly immersive. “Red Eclipse” is constructed around a repeating keyboard riff that might have ordinarily included programmed beats but Cavalca metes out a groove no machine could quite replicate.

Cavalca lets the electronic motif “Cinematic” sink in first, then gets the beat going, his dynamic drumming going right alongside a computerized pulse. “Iceland” is the right name for a sound with icy synth contours with a remote but peaceful feel. Though brief, it serves as a perfect bridge into “You & The Rising Sun” which shares the same root and some electronic sounds but is also spirited. “Blues In E(lectronic)” is also much as advertised, a blues form transmitted in Space Age blurts and includes a creative use of voice sampling. But it also includes a dance-enticing percussion-heavy bossa nova rhythm that at times threatens to overtake those blues.

Still early in his recording career and just now presenting a proper debut, Dan Cavalca can already boast a fully-formed individual approach to an instrumental music that brings together a lot of familiar elements but the alchemy itself is uncommon…and uncommonly good.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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