Now, on my blog site, I do reviews on; Progressive Rock, Jazz Rock, Doom and Symphonic Metal. But this album has completely taken me by surprise that stretches into the world of both Jazz and Classical music that has suddenly rolled up into one. With a twist of the two genres along with Rock in Opposition and Avant-Garde, you know something strange and twisted is about to happen at the right time to get you ready for an Ensemble line-up.
I first became aware of Sonata Islands last year on an episode from Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room after hearing one of their tracks from the Altrock Chamber Quartet in which Emilio Galante founded, where they did an homage to the RIO genre called, Brachilogia 7 and it took me by surprise of hearing this. Hearing this bizarre surroundings of the string quartet, flute, and woodwind going through this resemblance of Frank Zappa and Ron Geesin, was something that had my eyes wide open and knowing this would take me into unexplored specialties.
And now they are going into the world of the late romantic period of Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler. He was controversial, a visionary, a creator, and an autocrat along with the forces that would come with it. He wrote 10 symphonies back from 1884 to 1910 in four major chords and six minors as well along with Lieder und Gesange, Das Klagende Lied, Ruckert Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder to name a few. And for Sonata Islands to challenge the music of Mahler, is a challenge and a big leap for them to walk on the tightrope on the composer’s arranging and composition that are demanding and intense. In this one, they take on Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth).
Now while I’m not crazy about Gustav Mahler’s work, this album is complex and compelling from what Sonata Islands has unleashed from beginning, middle, and right into the very end. The Ensemble considers; Giovanni Faizone on Trumpet, Emilio Galante on Flute and Piccolo, Achille Succi on Woodwind and Sax, Simone Zanchini on Accordion, Stefano Senni on Double Bass, Francesco Cusa on Drums, and Tommaso Lonardi on voice.
Kind of Earth starts with this ominous sound between Accordion, Alto Sax, and Piccolo as if you are walking alone in the lonely nights in the streets of Paris as it goes into the ¾ Jazz-Waltz while they go into various tempos as Achille Succi challenges Mel Collins and Lol Coxhill while the dramatic tension between Stefano Senni and Francesco Cusa goes into a climatic banging and crash as Senni creates this insane bass solo. And then, it goes back into the Waltzy dance with some different changes in the tempo as Succi just wails it out and then heads back into the darkness to close it off.
Von Der Schonheit is very much in the styles of the Rock in Opposition feel as if they are traveling back in time that begins with a joyous walk into the park done by Zanchini, Galante, Senni, and Cusa as if the setting is very relaxing and calm for the first two minutes before going into a chaotic mode with stop-and-go mode in different time signatures. It has this weird combination of Magma and Samla Mammas Manna while the opener, Das Trinklied, is very sensational and vibrant as the Ensemble just have a grand old time taking the sounds of both Avant-Jazz and Classical Music that just completely took me by surprise.
Non Mahler goes from different variations. From the insane, off the wall and free jazz experimentations for the first four minutes into a late ‘30s/’40s sound of the swing-era for a couple of seconds, the dualistic between Faizone’s homage to Miles Davis on the Trumpet and Achille’s insane solo on the sax and they would come up with some wonderful melody to get the rhythm of the beat going into the Brazilian bossa nova sound to close it out for a wonderful dance into the sunset.
The twisted Around Mahler, is back into the difficult time changes with some wonderful bass solo that is Senni is doing this in the style of Charles Mingus and Jimmy Garrison as a tribute to the two Jazz bassists before they go into this jaw-dropping tribute to the Bitches Brew-era while the ensemble gives Francesco Cusa a chance to shine as he goes into town on the drums by doing this crazy and brilliant drum solo. He is over the place and doesn’t stop a beat when hits the patterns as the band go into a frenzy as a finale.
Commiato, which closes the album off, has a mourning middle-eastern introduction before the woodwinds go into a frantic screeching noise from low to high as if they reached the highest note between Galante and Succi and they just go through various melodies. And then it goes from the trumpet and accordion solo done in the bluesy style before Zanchini’s Accordion going up the spiral staircase to go up as reaches and stops to take a break and then reaching the highest crescendo up to the top of the flights of stairs.
And then, it’s a trip to different parts of Italy as you walk through various monuments for the last three minutes as Tommaso Londari’s narration sets the tone for a wonderful trip into the dream and laid-back adventure that is a calming and relaxing end. I have listened to Sonata Islands Meets Mahler about nine times now and I just can’t put into words, but it’s one of the most mind-blowing, stimulating albums I’ve listened to. It’s accomplishes the music of both Jazz, Avant-Garde music, and Classical that is rolled up into one.
So if you are ready to travel into the world of Sonata Islands, be prepared and fasten your seat belts, because it’s going to be a journey you will never expect.