Gary Smulyan and Dominic Chianese join forces for a stellar release loaded with flair and flavor!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
Gary Smulyan...A musical name if you ever heard one. Gary also happens to be one of the leading baritone sax players working today and with actor Dominic Chianese the end result is some old world music with a more contemporary spin. Neapolitan music gets a bad rap and may be some of the most misunderstood music on the planet despite coming from perhaps the most fertile creative artistic region on the globe. In Naples, Opera is what we would consider "pop" music and not classical. No, this is not opera but this is very traditional old world Neapolitan music played with an unprecedented authenticity despite being arranged for a slightly more improvisational setting. Bella Napoli also feature the stylish and enchanting vocals of "Uncle Junior" on the Sopranos and while stereotyping the sound is certainly easy, the original spirit of this cultural gold mine is transformed for a slightly more contemporary audience.
The Godfather meets Williams Sonoma.
Yes...I went there. However sometimes a point of reference is an effective tool in trying to communicate something more than sound. Bella Napoli is spirit, tradition, old world elegance that simply does not come out of the jazz witness protection program often enough. For those daring to raise an eyebrow at the thought of Dominic Chianese handling any vocal duties whatsoever, allow me to recommend his stellar solo performance of perhaps the most well known tunes in "Santa Lucia." There are simply no weak links here, Smulyan's syncopated pop of the opener "Funiculi Funicula" is pure fun and the vibrant spirit is carried throughout the rest of this recording.
I have long said if you become acquainted with a label and you like several of their releases then you have a nice base from which to start, Capri Records scores yet again. Here in the states the joke is that everyone either is from Texas or wants to be. Listen to Bella Napoli and if your Italian sweet spot will be hit right between the eyes and you will be calling red sauce "gravy" in no time. Normally I hand out stars on a review...but here:
Tracks: Funiculi Funicula; Anema e Core; Fenestra Che Lucive; Marechiano; Peque; O Sole Mio; O Saracino; A Vucchella; Dicitencello Vuie!; Tre Veglia e Sonno; Santa Lucia
Personnel: Gary Smulyan: Baritone Saxophone; Gary Versace: Piano, Accordion; Martin Wind: Bassist; Joe Brent: Mandolin and Violin; Matt Wilson: Drums