Now we’ve seen the results of the Jury and Public votes at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, even more credit has to go to Italy, who very nearly “did a Serbia” to snatch the victory on their return to Eurovision.
While we all hoped that the Song Contest would produce a commercial hit, I think there’s going to be long term success in Raphael Gualazzi. Okay, it won’t be as visible as Abba, and he might not shift truckloads of singles and get to Number One in the Top Forty like an Italian Lady Gaga; but in “Reality and Fantasy” he has an album that could well capture new fans for himself and for jazz as a whole.
He’s certainly captured me.
It is jazz, but at the same time this is incredibly accessible music. If your foot was tapping during “Madness of Love”, then you should be getting a hold of Gualazzi’s album. I’m not going to say it’s jazz-lite, but the infusion of genre flavours in here is like a very well crafted menu. Hints of blues and soul just below the surface, coupled with the moments where Gualazzi is dancing over his piano keyboard makes this an easy listen, but one that’s exciting as well.
You all know how much I like my songs to change gears throughout a piece of music… that’s exactly what the improvisational areas of jazz delivers.
Take the title track of the album, which runs fourth in the track listing. It’s a delightful piece of whimsy, with an almost Sesame Street like plink-plonk rhythm on the piano, the token fluffy monster, silly improved lyrics, growls and harmonies layered on top of each other. It’s fantastic.
Gualazzi is a musician. In all the interviews at Dusseldorf, in the video clips of him, you can see someone who is not a performer like Jedward, or a diva like Dana International, it’s just someone thrust in front of the media. But he lives for his music. Put him in front of a piano, and he feels alive, with emotion pouring out through very pore of his body.
Yes, this is a studio album, and it has likely been engineered, tweaked and listened to hundreds of times before it was mastered and released to the public, but unlike Lady Gaga, it doesn’t sound it. It sounds fresh, energetic, and very much alive. I’ve had this running in the background while writing at home; I’ve dimmed the lights and listened to it at night; and chilled out to it while flying over the Atlantic. It just works.
And there’s at least one kazoo heard in the album. Kazoos mean a lot to me.
Reality and Fantasy, by Raphael Gualazzi, is published by Sugar Music, and is available from Amazon.