by Ian Mann
April 28, 2022
The title is wholly appropriate. With its unashamed focus on melody “Uplift” is an enjoyable and highly appealing album. Each group member leaves an indelible mark on the music.
The Pucciarelli Group
(Ubuntu Music UBU0101)
Giuseppe Pucciarelli – guitar, Ergio Valente – piano & synth, Aldo Capasso – double & electric bass, Marco Gagliano – drums
Giuseppe Pucciarelli is an Italian born guitarist who moved to London in 2017 to study at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where his tutors included fellow guitarist John Parricelli, Other mentors include Mark Lockhart, Malcom Edmonstone, Stuart Hall, Martin Hathaway and Scott Stroman, He remains based in the English capital and performs regularly on the London jazz circuit.
Pucciarelli was initially influenced by his father’s love of Italian folk music and a strong sense of melody informs the seven original compositions on this latest album.
“Uplift” represents Pucciarelli’s fourth album following “Shall We Say It Is Worth It” (2017), Feel Free To Feel Free”, recorded with a group of British musicians, and “Tunes We Like” (2020), which features an Anglo-Italian line up.
“Uplift” reunites the four Italian musicians that made “Shall We Say It Is Worth It”, which was recorded when Pucciarelli was just twenty three. The guitarist regards this new album as a “natural extension” of the previous album by this quartet and remarks;
“I had the sound of Ergio and Marco in mind when composing the music and I knew I had my friend Aldo watching my back, he’s played on all of my albums and most of my concerts. ‘Uplift’ wouldn’t sound the same without these guys and that is the reason why the album gets issued under the Pucciarelli Group name. It’s about them too”.
With regard to his writing process Pucciarelli comments;
“Although I like the complex harmonies, chord progressions and rhythms used in jazz music I like writing and playing melodies which can be memorable and singable. For me, music goes beyond classifications and names, it is just music”.
The album commences with the title track, an impressionistic but highly melodic piece that establishes Pucciarelli as both a guitarist and composer of some substance. There are hints of Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell in his sound, and maybe John Abercrombie too, but he still has an instrumental voice that is very much his own. Composed with this specific line up in mind Pucciarelli’s episodic writing allows for plenty of interaction between the players, with the interplay between the leader’s guitar and Valente’s piano a particularly engrossing component of the music. The rhythm section respond with flexibility and intelligence. The featured soloist is Pucciarelli himself, who stretches out with a fluent and expansive solo.
“Kenny’s Time” was written as a homage to the late, great trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler and to the musicians who worked with him. The piece opens with rippling piano arpeggios, double bass and Gagliano’s cymbal embellishments. Capasso then helps to create a subtly propulsive groove as the music gathers momentum. Pucciarelli’s love of melody is still evident in a series of darting guitar motifs. Valente takes the first solo, his melodic flourishes sometimes reminiscent of Lyle Mays, sadly another musician to fall into the ‘late great’ category these days. Pucciarelli follows, as elegant and melodic as ever, with his playing exhibiting a subtle blues tinge.
The focus on melody and lyricism continues on “Bolo”, which features Capasso on electric bass as he shares the solos with Pucciarelli and Valente. Capasso’s liquidly lyrical soloing exhibits the influence of Jaco Pastorius, another ‘late and great’.
The Metheny-esque “What I’ve Seen” opens with a passage of unaccompanied Americana style guitar that develops into a lyrical ballad that features one of Pucciarelli’s most direct and affecting melodies. Gagliano deploys brushes throughout, subtly underpinning the lush guitar and piano melody lines. Pucciarelli’s guitar solo sees the music soaring gently skywards, while Capasso also demonstrates his capacities as a dexterous and melodic soloist on acoustic double bass.
“Wooden Sign” exhibits a greater urgency but still retains something of that Metheny influence. Valente delivers an expansive piano solo, easily his most effusive and exuberant of the set. The leader follows on guitar, his cleanly picked lines skilfully supported by intelligently nuanced bass and drums.
The impressionistic “Theme From ‘Song For Aldo’” is more loosely structured but still retains Pucciarelli’s characteristic love for melody. Solo guitar introduces the piece before Valente takes over at the piano, his lyrical but probing explorations underscored by guitar shimmers, bowed bass and the gentle rumble of mallets and swish of cymbals.
The album closes with “Did You Know”, ushered in by a roll of the drums and cut from the same melodic cloth as the rest of the album. The Metheny influence is again present in the bright melodic motifs and the lyrical but inventive solos from both Pucciarelli and Valente. Once again the rhythm team provide excellent support, Gagliano’s drumming is deft, responsive and full of detail and nuance. Ultimately he is given his chance in the spotlight with a colourful and inventive drum feature during the closing stages of this performance. The standard of interaction between the four musicians throughout this recording totally justifies the “Pucciarelli Group” billing with all the members of the quartet making a substantial contribution to the success of this recording.
With its unashamed focus on melody “Uplift” is an enjoyable and highly appealing album. The title is wholly appropriate, one can’t help feeling uplifted by Pucciarelli’s innately lyrical compositions.
As previously mentioned the members of his hand picked quartet respond brilliantly to his writing and each group member leaves an indelible mark on the music.
There will be some listeners who will find the music a little bloodless and for whom the Metheny influence may be a little too overt. That said there will be many more who will respond to Pucciarelli’s gift for melody and will love this record. It is likely to appeal to Metheny’s huge fan base, particularly listeners who still appreciate the relative simplicity of Pat’s early records for ECM.
A few reservations then, but ultimately this is an album that I very much enjoyed. I’d certainly be keen to see the Pucciarelli group live, should the opportunity ever arise. London based audiences will get their chance on Saturday 30th April 2022 when the Pucciarelli Group launch the “Uplift” album at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho.blog comments powered by Disqus