Raphael Gualazzi "Reality And Fantasy"
Due to be released on 16th February, “Reality and fantasy” is the début album of Sugar’s brand new talent Raphael Gualazzi, the eclectic pianist, composer and performer from Urbino with an all jazzy and stride piano outlook on the world.
Produced, composed and arranged by Raphael Gualazzi himself, “Reality and Fantasy” is a Caterina Caselli project comprising 14 tracks plus one bonus track, the lot boasting contributions by the likes of world-renowned artists such as Gilles Peterson (“Reality and fantasy remix”), James F. Reynolds and Pete Glenister (“A three second breath”), Vince Mendoza (“Follia d’amore), Fabrizio Bosso (trumpet in “Follia d’amore”, “Icarus”, “Behind the sunrise”, “Love goes down slow”, “Empty home”), Fio Zanotti (co-composer in “Tuesday”, “Sarò sarai”, “Love goes down slow”, “Empty home”) and Ferdinando Arnò (co-producer in “Follia d’amore”)
The album’s fifteen tracks were recorded in a region of our dimension so timeless and are so abundant in diverse stylistic influences as to make it almost impossible to accurately decipher one by one. And yet they unmistakably make up the framework to a stunning record, whose evolution springs from a forthright and strenuous search for the right path, skirting many a musical border and huddling up many a passion, in search of the one and only never to be let go. Raphael achieves this great album also playing live, constantly, anywhere and through loads of sacrifice, countless sleepless nights, with a bag full of promises and no income to go along with them, investing everything in an interest-free dream.
Raphael Gualazzi’s musical dictionary is a rich bundle of experience, of sounds absorbed throughout the years of piano studies at the Conservatorio Rossini in Pesaro. Aged nine, Raphael falls in love with classical piano only to soon give his heart and soul away to blues. Raphael soon loses himself in blues, in the buoyant and yet desperate soul of black music. But he also discovers, and instantly falls in love with, the magic of stride piano, the very magic that struck Fats Waller and Duke Ellington. Raphael soon also embraces the music and sounds of ragtime and New Orleans blues, so drenched in African pain and so eloquent in depicting the wrath of suffering.
The album features a highly original blend of tradition and novelty. It is almost impossible to listen to it without perceiving the vibes of the likes of Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquai and Ray Charles. Yet, their presence is just hinted at, as everything seems to be distilled by a passion so unlike anything else listened to before as to result in absolute novelty.
After all, the originality of “Reality and Fantasy” lies in a new light springing from tradition. This light happens to be a 30 year old musician who has already managed to go totally sold out at Paris’ Sunside Club, performing before a highly prestigious crowd, and who is about to land on stage at this year’s Sanremo Giovani with “Follia d’amore”.
“REALITY AND FANTASY”
FOLLIA D’AMORE - A whole century of Italian melody melted into stride piano with a taste of full 20’s Harlem. This irresistible blend is Raphael Gualazzi’s self-introduction to this year’s Festival di Sanremo. But there is a lot more. The euphoria of his piano playing and the blaring trumpet of the huge Fabrizio Bosso deliver the essence of Raphael’s velvety Energy. This track is a true delight, co-produced by Ferdinando Arnò, it also features Vince Mendoza’s string arrangement.
ICARUS – The jazz piano paces constantly, accompanying a voice which stretches out to the point that the entire music reaches out into an other world: the world of rock, or even more accurately, a crossroads between rock and jazz.
TUESDAY – If rhythm ’n’ blues were asked to wear a dark suit to a Copacabana party, is would turn out like this: scorching, with tinges of Steve Ray Vaughan and a percussion set which recalls an Ocean sunset.
REALITY AND FANTASY - How very tenuous is the wall between reality and obsession, between fantasy and paranoia. Abashed and emphasized, Raphael’s voice traces the track’s alternative melody plunging it into funky 70’s disco sounds, thanks to the introduction of several vintage instruments.
SCANDALIZE ME – This one is like listening to George Clinton and Funkadelic redone by Piero Piccioni’s orchestra. In Raphael Gualazzi’s words, this is a mere “affront”, in fact, it is actually his dissertation on the way he sees and perceives funk, or rather, on how he blends and mixes it “à la Gualazzi”.
BEHIND THE SUNRISE featuring ROX - Great atmoshere here, with Gualazzi’s shabby voice contrasting Rox’s tense and sensual one: “Behind the sunrise there is a world I would live in”. It blends an acoustic version of rhythm ‘n’ blues with a tad of lounge melodies.
A THREE SECOND BREATH – A three second breath can save your life, or help you grasp a unique instant of happiness. Raphael knows how to say this in a sprightly and dainty way, with an irresistible guitar throbbing here and there.
CALDA ESTATE – This is the song you think of in Winter but only fully appreciate in Summer. The lyrics here design a swing so fine as to outline an Italian style “saudade”.
OUT OF MY MIND – Rhythm is everything here, groove follows shortly after. Here every single note chases an irresistible desire to find a place where music can lose itself and go strolling about with fancy. “Out of my mind”, out of one’s thoughts, exactly that.
SARO’ SARAI – If the chord progression in the track elapses its tone, you discover a void where you can let go and just lay back. It goes by the name of modal jazz and this track does it for you, offering you a moment of pause and contemplation in the album’s most “laid back” tune.
LOVE GOES DOWN SLOW – Love as we wish it were. The lyrics draw you into reggae calm and cool, and you get lost in the midst of enthusiastic drifting which you just fail to grasp. This is one of the album’s diciest tracks.
LADY “O” – This one is a four quarter jive which drags you back to the 50’s. “Siediti carina, fatti spazio in questo treno di perplessità”. Cut the complex talk: “Lady O, dimmi chi sei, nella vita puoi cambiare nome ma l’anima no”. Here goes Raphael’s ardent soul hidden beneath a smile.
EMPTY HOME – This track wonders homeless on the road from New Orleans to Memphis and its arrangement is so airy as to conceal that its theme is abandon. It is a true little wonder to indulge in from first to last note.
CARAVAN – Piano and drums chase one another in a folly that leads them far away from all else. James Price Johnson wanted his stride piano this way in the New York clubs he used to play in when even Duke Ellington was in the crowd listening.
REALITY AND FANTASY (Gilles Peterson remix) – The same track run over by acid jazz deejay guru Gilles Peterson. This is another way of standing on the “wall between reality and fantasy”, a way which has already climbed digital charts across the world and conquered airplay on France’s major radio stations.