Il Tabernacolo dell'Onesto Peccato
SMP Records MP 0108
Ariondassa could be thought of as I Tre Martelli Lite, since it fields the same line-up, less Enzo Conti (melodeon) and Renzo Ceroni (bassetto and guitar). However, as the ghironda player, Rinaldo Doro, and the singer, Ciaciao Marchelli, both play melodeon as well, it's really only the sound of Renzo's bassetto which is missing. For readers not entirely up to speed with the Piemontese band's current personnel, I should divulge that the remaining two members are the wind section - Simone Boglia and Lorenzo Boioli - who both play pifferi, cornamuse and diverse whistles. Piffero and bagpipes, whether in 'one of each' or 'two of either' combinations, make a powerful melody front-line, as you may imagine!
The reasons for a smaller band operating out of a larger one are age-old and rather obvious - easier to organise, more flexible, more mobile, simpler PA considerations, cheaper ... And, in the present case, we can also add that the Ciaciao/Boioli two-headed party animal's notorious pan-European cavortings are more easily followed by ITM's two younger members, Rinaldo and Simone, than by the older pair.
To put it simply then - if you've enjoyed ITM's music in the past, you'll enjoy Ariondassa. Indeed, you may enjoy this recording more, because it's a very lively and enjoyable affair. As is often the case with northern Italian music, you'll have probably heard many of the songs and tunes in different versions before, but this is a live recording, and much of the ambience and excitement of a 'performance' comes across. The event appears to have been one of those big Italian evening meals in a small(ish) restaurant, presumably specially set up for the recording. If I sound a little vague about the details it's because the liner notes (only in Italian) contain a lot of rather grandiose description of other such meals and of the old-world hospitality which pertained in this area until very recent times. They imply that the event captured in this recording is a continuing festa in the old style, to which we are all invited ... courtesy of the Atenæo del Vino; the University of Wine ... you get the drift? Clearly, this is not the place to look for hard facts - and a foreigner is not helped by the rather purple prose and numerous idiomatic expressions used. The CD's title translates as 'The Tabernacle of Virtuous Sin'. Clearly, I'm not fully getting the intended meaning of the phrase!
Anyway, the recordings which were made at the event (whatever it was) have been cleverly edited together to give the impression of a continuous series of performances, with applause, announcements, audience responses and general ambient sounds between the tracks, in a way which draws you into the spirit of the evening. Such production tricks can be annoying after a couple of hearings, but here they seem to work well, with mostly positive and very few negative results.
And the songs and music in between is really lovely stuff, too, with Ciaciao Marchelli (as I heard him only last month) singing better than ever - as here with Jan d'Avignon (sound clip). Some other favourite songs are Ed ho girato, La festa l'è faita and an ensemble piece which is described as a typical of the piola, the small Piemontese bar/restaurant you'll find everywhere in the country towns and villages; it's called Da tèra an pianta (of the earth and the plant) and here's a sound clip.
There are also a few solely instrumental tracks, including a pair of polkas from Ettore 'Bani' Losini, who played a short English tour a few years ago with his band I Müsetta. Bani was almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of the piffero tradition in Piemont and was, for many years, the only maker of the instrument. But my favourite tune is a mazurca which I'm sure must have come from the repertoire of Giacomo 'Jacmon' Sala, one of the great maestro piffero players, from whom came the strikingly lovely Sestrina, which everyone was trying to play a decade or more ago. This present tune is called La vendemmia (the grape harvest) and also deserves a sound clip.
As was often the case with ITM, Ariondassa have added a traditional musician to the mix for this CD; Bruno 'Brav Om' Carbone plays a small piano accordion and contributes three of his own songs, two of which he also sings, from the Langhe area of western Piemont. One can imagine that Ciaciao's dad, if he had a taste for Tex-Mex music, might sound like Brav Om - so he fits into the general feel of the record pretty seamlessly.
All in all, an excellent first record from a band with fine credentials and lots of experience and merit. I wonder when they're coming over here?
Rod Stradling - 4.7.02
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