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Picchio Dal Pozzo - Live CD (album) cover


Picchio Dal Pozzo


Canterbury Scene

4.00 | 5 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Jazz-rockers Picchio dal Pozzo certainly stood out amongst other bands from their country in the vintage era of Seventies prog rock, the band favouring the Canterbury scene and Avant-garde styling of international artists such as Hatfield and the North, Henry Cow, Frank Zappa and the Soft Machine instead of the perhaps expected Italian progressive sound. Almost 40 years and four studio albums on from their beginnings, `Picchio dal Pozzo Live' offers an 83 minute performance captured at the La Claque Club in Genova on the 15th of January 2011, and is the kind of document that will not only please devoted fans of the band, but would also make for an exciting introduction to the group and their approach to complex jazz music that will only encourage new listeners to seek out their special past discography.

Comprised of a mix of original members and new additions, the band (sometimes with up to 9 members jammed onto the small stage at one time!) plays with a refreshing looseness, moving through acoustic-led movements, shimmering electronics and percussion experiments, with jazz/fusion workouts, big band moments and fully improvised passages. There's an unhurried, spiritual quality to this wonderful performance, and rarely has Canterbury-styled music sounded so ambient and truly hypnotic. The band here present a sumptuous collection of dreamy but sometimes noisy experimental jazz that is immaculately played, and the musicians display a precise execution of build and tightness, perfectly in synch with each-other to deliver a thrilling musical experience.

Borrowing heavily from their classic debut self-titled album from 1976 (but sadly omitting my personal favourite, the suffocating spacy insanity of `Seppia'!), as well as choice selections from their other studio works and even an unreleased piece, this performance is simply not a tired or stale recreation of the numbers from those albums. Instead the band plays with a nimble and deft improvisational skill that breathes new life into these fresh interpretations. `Merta' is transformed into a beautiful nine-minute outer-space drone more along the likes of Gong, with strangely effective musette (a type of bagpipe) and tenor recorder solos. The strolling and quirky jazz of `Coccomelastico' is also stretched to over eight minutes, a spiraling clarinet solo a highlight, as well as some delirious electric piano noodling and fluid bass. The breathtaking `Off' takes on a shimmering, somber Post-rock quality with it's lush atmospheres and low-key scat vocalizing.

The driving `Il Presidente' holds together through a range of wild tempo changes due to technical drumming precision, and the second half even has a kind of Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree-like beautiful melancholy. `Adriatico' mixes relentless extreme avant-garde vocalizing with dark churning R.I.O grooving, `La Bolla' an unsettling late-night downbeat murky sax, flute, piano and percussion improvised musing. `Napier' is quirky and devilish with grand Mellotron and searing electric guitar solo in the outro, and it's not unlike a track from fellow Italian R.I.O band Yugen, unsurprising as some members of that band have appeared in previous live line-ups of Picchio dal Pozzo. The previously unreleased `Lindberg' is a sinister creeping piece full of cascading vocals, haunting piano, scratchy Mellotron and extreme percussion experimentation. The show closer `Uccellin Del Bosco' is a dirty big-band stomper that welcomes some guest and original members to the stage for a fitting finale.

The restrained editing of the DVD captures the musicians and their performance perfectly. There's lots of gentle fades, slow panning and subtle zooms, the camera rarely jumping around in a distracting way, instead taking the time to capture and follow each musician in a softly unfolding manner. The use of carefully placed stills of the band members is quite unique and adds a very reflective and thoughtful quality that suitably represents this sort of music. The disc also comes with an English subtitled 44 minute documentary on the band that is frequently good-humoured (also very surreal and a little bent!) as well as a short music video.

Along with other vintage Italian jazz-rockers such as Arti e Mestieri, Perigeo and Dedalus, the work of Picchio dal Pozzo is revered and treasured for a good reason, and this live DVD document is a welcome addition to their small but defining body of work that fans will relish. Despite their age, this is hardly a depressing case of old men churning out tired and safe bland product, this is a band challenging themselves and their audience with exciting, daring and unpredictable new music. This humble digipack collection from Black Widow Records contains sheer musical perfection for lovers of the experimental jazz end of progressive music, the Canterbury and Rock in Opposition sounds, and it comes with the highest recommendation for fans and brave newcomers.

Five stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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