by Ian Mann
July 26, 2017
A neatly balanced set that combines acoustic and electric elements across a range of jazz styles.
Giulio Romano Malaisi
(Self released, GRMCD01)
Giulio Romano Malaisi is a London based, Italian born guitarist and composer. He studied classical and electric guitar plus music theory from the age of ten at the Gilfredo Cattolica Music Academy in his homeland before moving to London in 2011 at the age of eighteen.
Since arriving in the English capital the versatile Malaisi has played music across a variety of musical genres including jazz, funk, pop and soul. A prolific session musician and accompanist he has played at many of London’s leading jazz venues, often as part of the ‘house band’. Malaisi’s full biography can be read on his website http://www.giulioromanamalaisi.com
One of Malaisi’s main sources of inspiration was his compatriot and fellow guitarist Antonio Forcione, who encouraged his move to London. Other prominent guitarists who have been cited as influences include Ralph Towner and Egberto Gismonti.
Malaisi plays both acoustic and electric guitars and has developed a highly individual style incorporating both finger picking and flat picking techniques. He has a particular affinity for gypsy jazz and as the leader of the group The Gypsy Dynamite has released a concert recording “Live In London” which was documented at Le Quecumbar, the capital’s home of gypsy jazz.
However Malaisi is also a skilled player of jazz, funk and fusion as an excellent video on his website reveals. The coverage was captured at the Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec venue in Kennington and features Malaisi playing both electric and acoustic guitars as part of a punchy quartet featuring the American born saxophonist Michael Rosen together with bassist Nick Webster and drummer Daniele Antenucci.
“Unexpected Ride” brings together both sides of Malaisi’s jazz persona with a mixture of acoustic and electric numbers recorded in the company of Rosen (tenor & soprano sax), Dario De Lecce (double bass), Sophie Alloway (drums) and Filippo Dall’Asta (gypsy rhythm guitar).
The material includes seven Malaisi originals plus innovative interpretations of classic tunes by Donald Fagen, Herbie Hancock and Michel Petrucciani. Some of Malaisi’s own compositions began life as solo guitar pieces but have subsequently been expanded and developed for performance by a quartet line up.
The album commences with Malaisi’s own “Maratea”, a breezy slice of Latin inflected jazz featuring the leader’s nimble acoustic guitar picking and Rosen’s sinuous soprano sax above the lively, buoyant rhythms generated by Di Lecce and the excellent Alloway. Also the drummer with the London based trio Wild Card (led by guitarist Clement Regert) Alloway is featured extensively in the closing stages of the piece but plays with great flair and imagination throughout.
Malaisi remains on acoustic guitar for the introduction to the lengthy “Grooving Along” before switching to electric and stretching out over the subtly funky grooves generated by the rhythm section. Di Lecce is also featured with a melodic bass solo before handing over to the leader who gives a further demonstration of his abilities as a soloist, this time on acoustic guitar.
Malaisi has a particular affinity for the music of Donald Fagen, vocalist, keyboard player and co-leader of Steely Dan. The song “Green Flower Street” originally appeared on Fagen’s debut solo album “The Nightfly” (1982) and is transformed here into a stunning solo acoustic guitar extemporisation that showcases both Malaisi’s technical prowess and his love of a strong melody.
Youtube features a video of Malaisi on acoustic guitar playing another Fagen tune, “On The Dunes” from Fagen’s “Kamakiriad” album. The video appears to have received Fagen’s blessing and can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0OLl28TWO8
Rosen returns to play gently soulful saxophone on the lilting Latin flavoured ballad “The Nightfall Song”. The first real solo comes from Di Lecce on melodic but resonant bass and he’s followed by the leader on acoustic guitar and finally Rosen on soprano. Alloway provides colourful but sensitive support throughout.
Herbie Hancock’s “I Thought It Was You” (from the 1978 album “Sunlight”) is a second solo acoustic guitar extravaganza with Malaisi sometimes utilising the body of the instrument as a form of auxiliary percussion.
Alloway’s drums usher in the title track which represents the most robust number of the set. Alloway and Di Lecce set up a propulsive groove which provides the impetus for a lithe, slippery bop inspired solo from Malaisi, this time on electric guitar. Rosen subsequently weighs in on muscular but fluent tenor. Alloway then enjoys a series of effervescent drum breaks as she trades choruses with guitar and saxophone. It’s an invigorating homage to the glory days of bebop.
The classic jazz feel continues into “Randagio” with its insidious tenor sax melody and subsequent solo above Alloway’s briskly brushed grooves. Rosen stretches out at length and he’s followed by the leader’s subtly probing electric guitar.
Introduced by Alloway’s mallet rumbles “Music for Above” is an evocative and atmospheric piece that features Malaisi on acoustic guitar. His unhurried, eloquent picking is well complemented by Di Lecce and Alloway, the latter very much adopting a colourist’s role. The bassist also features as a soloist with a typically succinct and melodic statement.
“Dark Alley” represents another excursion into fusion tinged jazz territory with Malaisi sounding decidedly Metheny-like on electric guitar. Rosen responds on fluent tenor as Di Lecce and Alloway combine to drive the song forward.
The album ends on an optimistic note with the aptly titled “Looking Up” written by the late French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani (1962-99). Petrucciani’s uplifting melody retains its qualities when transposed for guitar and this delightful duo arrangement features Malaisi’s agile acoustic picking in conjunction with Dall’Asta’s well judged acoustic rhythm guitar accompaniment.
Brining together several strands of Malaisi’s musical personality “Unexpected Ride” is a neatly balanced set that combines acoustic and electric elements across a range of jazz styles. Malaisi displays an impressive fluency on both the acoustic and electric versions of his chosen instrument and his own playing is of a remarkably high standard throughout. He’s well supported by a well chosen team of musicians with drummer Alloway making a particularly impressive contribution.
Most of Malaisi’s live appearances take place in London and reader’s in the capital are strongly advised to check him out. His current performance schedule can be found on his website.
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