Review courtesy of ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM
Viva La Black Live At Ruvo, recorded in 2004, is a collaboration between the Italian jazz orchestra Canto Generàl and singers from vocal ensemble Faraualla, Keith Tippett, his wife Julie Tippetts and legendary South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo. As well as playing piano, Tippett directs and conducts the orchestra; most of the compositions are also his. However, the presence of Moholo-Moholo is key, as much of the music here was originally created with South African exiles Dudu Pukwana, Harry Miller and Mongezi Feza, all friends and colleagues of his, and all now departed.
The distinctive melody line and driving rhythms of the opening track, “MRA,” immediately call to mind Brotherhood of Breath and The Dedication Orchestra, large ensembles that united South African and UK players. However, Canto Generàl are not content to rehash past versions, as Vito Mitoli’s soaring opening trumpet solo immediately makes clear. Packed with many fine soloists, the orchestra makes each piece its own. The blend of brass and reeds with the wordless vocals is thrilling stuff.
Tippett’s compositions mix well with the South Africans. More melodically and rhythmically varied, they serve to demonstrate the extremes of sound that the ensemble can produce. For much of its five minutes, “Dedicated to Mingus” combines drones from voices and instruments into an atmospheric free-form tone poem, then eventually breaks into a mournful lament that is worthy of Mingus himself. Just as low key—and just as beautiful—is Tippett’s all-too-short “Mongezi Feza,” with the voices staccato chanting of Feza’s name like a mantra. The voices are again employed to stunning effect on “Cider Dance”; after some fine free blowing, subtly backed by the vocals, the voices come to the fore, culminating in a complex a capella improvisation.
In the tradition of such collaborations, the music here brings together seemingly disparate elements—big band energy, melody, rhythmic drive, free blowing, ethereal vocals—and mixes them into a highly satisfying whole that will appeal to a broad spectrum of jazz fans.
Keith Tippett: piano; Julie Tippetts: voice; Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums, with Canto General: Gianna Montecalvo: voice; Cinzia Eramo: voice; Gabriella Schlavone: voice; Teresa Vallarella: voice; Loredana Perrini: voice; Maristella Schlavone: voice; Vittorino Curci: alto sax; Roberto Ottoviano: soprano sax, alto sax; Farbizio Scarafile: tenor sax; Felice Mezzina: tenor sax; Nicola Pisani: baritone sax; Marco Sannini: trumpet and flugelhorn; Luca Calabrese: trumpet and flugelhorn; Vincenzo De Luci: trumpet and flugelhorn; Vito Mitoli: trumpet and flugelhorn; Beppe Caruso: trombone, Lauro Rossi: trombone, Franco Angiolo: trombone, Michele Marzella: trombone; Giorgio Vendola: acoustic and electric basses; Francesco Angiuli: acoustic and electric basses; Livio Minifra: piano, keyboards; Vincenzo Mazzone: drums