Sunday, June 5, 2016

concert review: ITALIAN SURF ACADEMY, Barbes, Bklyn NY

ITALIAN SURF ACADEMY Live at Barbes, June 4, 2016
Concert review by John Pietaro

The trio that comprises Italian Surf Academy lives in musical sphere without boundaries; spy guitar effortlessly dances to Downtown improv before encompassing spaghetti western and “giallo” horror movie themes.  Imagine if you will a music free to revel in a nostalgia that constantly reinvents itself.

Founded by guitarist Marco Cappelli while still living in his native Italy, the band was designed to musically demarcate the post-WW2 Western European vision of American culture. As he stated, “The US represented much more than a geographic place, it was a concept which we dreamed of belonging to”. After some twelve years of residing in this country, Cappelli’s musical mélange may be more parody than adulation (hey, he was present during the W Bush years), but in any event, the spirit of the inspiration burns brilliantly. These days Italian Surf Academy is 2/3 American with the inclusion of much sought-after bassist Damon Banks and young lion drummer Dave Miller, thus realizing the cultural fusion bridging the Atlantic.

Opening its June residency at Park Slope performance space Barbes, the band tore into its unique repertoire for an enthusiastic audience. Immediately, the familiar sparkling, shimmering guitar sound of another era filled the room as Italian Surf Academy kicked off with “Django”. Over the better part of one hour, the band reimagined main title themes from decades-old Italian productions, ranging from the noted to the rather notorious, featuring compositions of Ennio Morricone among others, and threw in Tommy Tedesco guitar licks, moments of bossa novas and escapades of free jazz as needed. But each adaptation was tightly arranged and offered the in-your-face rad bravura New York can claim as original. Bank’s effortless, grooving terra firma made a nice counter-part to Miller’s skittering, broken rhythms over a two-piece drumkit colored by small gongs, few cymbals and a cowbell or two. Both Banks and Miller focused on the leader’s alternately screaming and singing ax, supporting Cappelli within this ongoing, embracing three-way conversation.

Highlights included Carlo Rustichelli’s music from the score of Mario Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace” and the finale “Secret Agent Man” (here an avant expansion of the Ventures’ arrangement), which morphed into John Barry’s James Bond theme before juxtaposing to the Vic Mizzy “Munsters” title music and then back to into black-and-white.

DON’T LET JUNE GET AWAY WITHOUT STOPPING INTO BARBES ON SATURDAYS AT 6. Your sense of art and need for fun and reminiscence will fight it out like they’re on opposite sides of the iron curtain---except instead of  suspicion and showdown, Italian Surf Academy lets both sides party victoriously.

This summer it’s time to really come in from the Cold.

{Barbes 376 9th Street, Brooklyn NY}

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