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LA LAMA SOTTILE

Zaal

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars Zaal is an extraordinary recording from talented composer Agostino Macor, the brilliant keyboardist of Finisterre, Hostsonaten and La Maschera di Cera renown. Surrounded by some of his usual colleagues as well as a few new guys, the crafty composer suggests a jazzier side to his usual heavy symphonic gig with weighty use of the grand piano. When a progressive disc starts off with a 51 second intro with some superlative ivory work, you know this is going to be joyride. The 8 minute plus "Zelig" is a stunning work with intense cello and supple violin fillets on a bed of lush mellotron and sweet synthesizer, another dash of tangy piano, the prolific Fabio Zuffanti on bass and some wonderfully ornate drum work from Federico Foglia as sides. On the masterful epic "Il Destino di Haghia Sofia", Macor shoves this straight into pure jazz confines with liberal use of Fender Rhodes , tagging along with some highly Pontyesque violin forays from Sergio Caputo, some exemplary furrowing bass by Maurizio Bavastro as well as Foglia 's relentless work. "La Lama" is a minute long reflective piano etude that breathes and pants, a stellar example of passionate restraint. The next track is called "Progress", pfff what a title! The mood goes head first into some seriously experimental symphonic Prog with strings ablaze, a hint of harpsichord, ornately buzzing synths as well as Finisterre's soaring Stefano Marelli on lead guitar (is he good or what?) all tossed into the melee, a musical antipasto adding bursts of saxophone to provide some "piccante". This final supreme instrument is the showcase on "Naan", a vibrant follow-up to the previous madness, a meanderingly sexy solo courtesy of Paolo Pezzi that has a cool, relaxed authority about it that just exudes class. Aaah! What, I dialed a wrong number? Well, this is a recording after all and "Il Cannocchiale" is a Macor Fender Rhodes and a Marelli e-bow guitar theatrical duet with French and then German spoken word samples. Hey, Robert, Stefano can "tronic" too! Simply brilliant stuff, constantly in search of the edge. "Cinquequarti" smartly revisits the jazz quartet pattern with Bavastro's bopping bass foraging assuredly, Caputo's catskin caressing the violin strings with sheer impunity and Macor weaving some additional piano magic. Blending briefly into the mellotron infested "Limbo". The final piece is "Sul Mutamento", a classy 7.23 minute epic that showcases all the combined talent amassed by Macor and his "amici", a keyboard fest with piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Mellotron and synthesizer all taking a bow in the spotlight. Caputo takes a little violent ride with later Marelli going for a mellow exit. Though most probably a one-shot "solo" album that is miles away from his normal style, Agostino Macor certainly has a side project that is most worthy of pursuing. Certainly hard to resist for fans of ISP and for those discerning proggers who like a little class with their music. Beautiful gray/blue slate modern graphics add to the pleasure. 5 Rhodes.

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#171580)
Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Zaal is a Project whose main focus is to provide a scenario for those Agostino Macor's ideas related to his jazz-oriented concerns. Even if the passages in which the violin takes center stage are abundant, it is clear that the keyboard input is the pillar of the instrumental interactions. 'La Lama Sottile' is a beautiful musical work, beautiful and warm like a subtle flame: the elegance is patently all over the place; the display of virtuosity is orchestrated in a frame of clever constraint; the consistently polished sound is a pure manifestation of the candidness aura to the compositions. Just to reiterate the previous notion with different and fewer words, this album's repertoire is a perfect sample of how a source of musical energy can be refurbished under the strict guidance of elegance in an effective way. 'Intro' is the obvious intro, a less-than-1-minute long, soft entrance lead by a Latin-friendly piano. 'Zelig' is the first showcase for the more explicit side of Zaal's core sound: stylish jazz-fusion with a strong chamber component and a few bucolic hints, revolving around the elaboration of diverse mood from a few basic motifs - something like Perigeo-meets-early PFM with some ounces of Celeste and Luciano Basso. Sergio Caputo's violin is simply celestial, while the mellotron and synthesizer adornments provide a special cosmic aura to the track. The lovely, subtly dense ambience briefly provided by the string ensemble in the interlude 'La Bussola' is followed by the very jazzy 'Il Destino di Naghia Sofia', which can be best described as Perigeo-meets-Weather Report with Jean-Luc Ponty replacing Wayne Shorter. There is a recurrent elemental basis for this 9'33"-long piece, but the mood is never monotonous: at some point, the synthesizer adds some psychedelic leads with enough softness as not to break the track's overall vibe. 'La Lama' is a piano sonata that displays a clever set of silent spots. This sort of quietness serves as an adequate anticipation for the glorious majesty of 'Progress', which actually happens to be more symphonic than jazzy. The guitar leads provided by guest Stefano Marelli bring a mesmerizing Gilmouresque detail to the magnificent whole. This piece is segued into 'Naan', a nostalgic track that seems to evoke the days of Dave Brubeck - featuring guest saxophonist Paolo Pezzi. 'Il Cannocchiale' is based on synth and guitar soundscapes, something like Fripp-meets-mid 70s Cluster. 'Cinquequarti', as the title indicates, is a 5/4 piece that reiterates the mood we already found on track 4. The same approach will be reflected in the closing track 'Sul Mutamento', only on a solid 4/4, with a funky-based dynamics and an interesting classical piano shift near the end and a coda that reprises the main motif of 'Zelig'. Minimalistic and spacey like 'Il Cannocchiale', albeit calmer, it brings almost 3 minutes of cosmic serenity before the arrival of the closing track. The listener may pick their own chosen highlights from "La Lama Sottile": mine are tracks 2 & 6, but the main idea is that "La Lama Sottile", as a whole, works perfectly. Zaal, as a band, masters the concept of designing and recording an album as an album per se, in the strictest sense of the word.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#171807)
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars ZAAL is the project of Agostino Macor the keyboardist for LA MASCHERA DI CERA, FINISTERE and other bands that his side kick Fabio Zuffanti seems to be involved with. ZAAL is more in the Jazz / Fusion realm of things with lots of violin. PERIGIO did come to mind a couple of times with some of the better music here but this doesn't measure up in my opinion to that band.

"Intro" is a short piece with a light beat and piano. "Zelig" is uptempo with piano and light drums.Violin joins in. A calm a minute in then it slowly picks back up. Another calm 3 1/2 minutes in with piano then it picks up again before 5 1/2 minutes with synths and violin as drums and piano continue. Mellotron before 7 1/2 minutes makes this sound much better. "La Bussola" is a short violin led piece. It's mellow like the "Intro" track. "Il Destino Di Naghia Sofia" is my favourite track. It opens with electric piano (thankyou) then violin and light drums join in. It picks up a little.This is good. Synths before 7 minutes. "La Lama" is a short piano piece.

"Progress" opens with bass and violin.The tempo picks up with violin out front. It settles as contrasts continue throughout. Some refreshing guitar after 3 1/2 minutes but it's too brief. "Naan" opens with piano, drums and sax. This is jazzy. You can hear people talking in the background which is odd. Clapping ends it. "Il Cannocchiale" is a song I like but it seems completely out of place. Atmosphere throughout with female and male spoken words coming and going. "Cinquequarti" has these spoken female words with a jazzy soundscape. Piano and violin lead. "Limbo" features violin and sparse piano. "Sul Mutamento" opens with thunder and rain as piano joins in. It all stops abrubtly then turns jazzy after a minute. Violin leads a minute later but the piano and violin keep trading off. Cool song. The thunder and rain are back after 5 1/2 minutes then the song kicks back in.

If you like lighter Jazz and violin i'm sure you will enjoy this album. It has it's moments but not near enough of them to offer up 4 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#308546)
Posted Saturday, November 06, 2010 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars Zaal was an idea of Italian keyboardist Agostino Macor,major member of La Maschera Di Cera but also part of other Zuffanti projects like Hostsonaten,Finisterre and Rohmer.He created this project in 2002 and collaborated with many musicians,with whom he shared previous recording experiences like drummer Federico Foglia from Hostsonaten, guitarist Stefano Marelli from Finisterre,Hostsonaten and Rohmer and violin player Sergio Caputo from Hostsonaten and Finisterre.The debut ''La lama sottile'' was recorded in 2003 and released a year later on Mellow Records.

The approach of Macor on this band is definitely in a Jazz Rock vein but with obvious elements from Classical and Chamber music as well.The sound is refined and very elegant and the compositions are mainly delicate and smooth with external light interplays between the instruments.On ''La lama sottile'' you can listen to a jazzy rhythm section combining with classical piano,you can listen to fiery violin solos outbursting over symphonic synths,you can listen to DIXIE DREGS-like groovy tracks ,you can listen to Chamber music with strong cello,you can even listen to calm Lounge Jazz with smooth piano and saxes like if you are in a restaurant.Guitars are mostly absent,but their appearance adds an even more melodic content when needed.Macor prooves that way to be a very good composer and an underestimated excellent keyboard/piano player.

''La lama sottile'' is something different among the tons of Jazz Rock releases out there.It contains a heavy melodic aura and an overall pleasant and optimistic sound,but the lack of some dynamics might annoy some demanding adventurous prog followers.An album easily listened by the mass of both prog and non-prog fans.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#509637)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2011 | Review Permalink

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