Halfway between proggy folk rock and smooth jazz, the latest album from Notturno Concertante is a bit of a tough egg to crack. Although this Italian act originally went for a melodic neo-progressive sound a la Marillion, “Canzoni Allo Specchio” demonstrates the evolution that has come along with age. Notturno Concertante may have an original approach, but fans of Italian prog music will find themselves instantly at home. At times the band’s mellow approach tends to underwhelm, but fans of Italian prog rock will find “Canzoni Allo Specchio” a worthy listen.
Although the aforementioned ‘smooth jazz’ leanings may send up red flags for many proggers, it should be stated up front that Notturno Concertante never give up the sense of sophistication first introduced in the prog folk powerhouse “Ahmed L Ambulante”. One thing that also tends to stay consistent however is Notturno Concertante’s soft approach to music. As is the case with “Come Il Vento” (among others), “Canzoni Allo Specchio” does show its rock influence, but only sparingly. Regardless how complex the arrangements between the guitars, accordion and string sections get, Notturno Concertante’s music flows over the listener as a string of beautiful, cinematic passages. The closest thing I might compare it o in that sense is a technically proficient, progressive form of restaurant music; “Canzoni Allo Specchio” focuses in on creating a mood, and they stick with it.
Of course, Notturno Concertante’s progressive roots tend to lie with their compatriots, and listeners may find themselves comparing “Canzoni Allo Specchio” to a slew of their favourite RPI records. The laid-back mood and heavy use of non-rock instruments does give Notturno Concertante an original twist, but the vocals are deep within what will be familiar to a fan of Italian prog. Giuseppe Relmi’s vocals are a warm vessel for the beautiful phonetics of the Italian language. The music is conventionally beautiful, and the vocals fit the same description.
Although the complexity of the compositions becomes clear after several listens, the mellowness does often get to the point where it’s easy to let it sink into the background. Although I’d hate to think myself intrinsically ‘against’ a genre of music, the smooth jazz elements in Notturno Concertante do not sit comfortably. Although the tenor saxophone worship that pervades much of the album is the most apparent ‘smooth’ aspect, Notturno Concertante will occasionally throw away their brilliant sophistication in exchange for pure pleasantry; chord progressions that seek to sound pretty, but fail to create more than a ‘background music’ vibe. “Lei Vede Rosso” is the worst offender for this, a romantic piece that may not sound out of place in a department store elevator.
Suffice to say, “Canzoni Allo Specchio” is not the most exhilarating RPI record, but the beauty and warmth is herein full. Not to mention that the band have gone from a fairly basic Marillion tribute to something they can call their own, Notturno Concertante can be proud of this.
1. Ahmed l’ambulante (6:16)
2. Young Man Gone West (3:45)
3. Come il vento (4:34)
4. Le anime belle (6.07)
5. On Growing Older (2:12)
6. The Price Of Experience (4:43)
7. Lei vede rosso (6:57)
8. La Milonga di Milingo (3:44)
9. Canzone allo specchio (4:29)
10. Ark En Ciel (1:55)
* Lucio Lazzaruolo – classical guitar, keyboards
* Raffaele Villanova – guitars, vocals
* Giuseppe Relmi – lead vocals
* Carmine Marra – sax, clarinet, whistles
* Carmine Meluccio – violin
* Gabriele Moscaritolo – accordion
* Antonio D’Alessio – bass
* Giuseppe D’Alessio – bass
* Simone Pizza – drums
* Raffaele Tiseo – violin (1, 2)
* Umberto Spiniello – drums (7)
* Massimo De Feo – cello (5)
* Heidi Intingaro – backing vocals