Massimo Biolcati : Incontre Review
Massimo Biolcati is a multi-talented musician, composer, and producer. He is best known as the founding member of Gilfema, but his talents reach far beyond the confines of the widely lauded trio. Originally hailing from Stockholm, Biolcati is of Swedish/Italian descent. Upon moving to New York City in 2003, he worked extensively with Paquito D’Rivera, Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, and Lizz Wright. In recent years he’s toured and recorded with Brazilian vocalist/composer Luciana Souza. His first leader release in 2008 Persona on Obliqsound featured Gilfema bandmate Lionel Loueke, pianist, accordionist Peter Rende, and drummer Jeff Ballard, with vocal contributions by Lizz Wright and Gretchen Parlato. As of late, Biolcati has been turning his focus more and more to production. He worked closely with the electro-funk outfit Horne Electric Band on a self-titled debut on Ropeadope Records. Biolcati also has produced the new Gilfema release set to hit in the Spring of 2020. He continues to run iReal Pro, the app he created in 2009 that has become an essential tool for musicians and music students, providing online access to scores and custom generated backing tracks for thousands of compositions. With all of this creativity on is plate Biolcati has found time for a long-awaited follow-up leader release titled Incontre (Sounderscore), which is set to release in January of 2020. The album features Dayna Stephens on tenor and baritone saxophone, Sam Yahel on piano and organ, and Jongkuk Kim on drums.
“Hello, I Lied,” features Biolcati’s focused intonation and nimble dexterity kicking the album off, singling the leader’s prowess and firm agility. The ensemble joins with Kim locking tightly with Biolcati, while Yahel and Stephens colorize the melody with warmth and intensity. Biolcati explains the inspiration behind the tune, “it was born from a bass line I wrote a couple of years ago. It has a deceiving rhythm (a sort of lie), and having played it on various occasions with both J.K. and Sam; I knew they would have fun with it and explore its possibilities.” This sentiment rings throughout the tune. Yahel’s adroitness instantly shines through, as he connects each line to the next with mastery. Stephens jabs and weaves through his solo, adding a punctuated sound. The constant thrusting muscularity of Biolcati’s bass propels the track to its conclusion with excellent results.
It’s always pleasing when an artist represents the music they grew up on and interprets it into the jazz idiom. Biolcati, a youth in the 80s, was undoubtedly influenced by the popular music of the era, so it was great to see the smash hit by Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” as a selection. Biolcati arranges the tune in a way that you can instantly recognize the melody but with rhythmic additives that squarely place it in the jazz genre. Switching from rhythmically creative sections that add in signature elements of the hit tune to straight-ahead swing, the well-known tune is given new life in an enjoyable and innovative approach.
Incontre offers Biolcati’s originals and heavy-hitting composers from Chaplin, Monk to Mingus, to modern composers like Dave Holland. What each tune offers are a freshness provided by Biolcati’s pen. His arranging ideas are inventive and thought-provoking. Whether he is approaching his originals, taking on pop classics, or luminary jazz tunes, it’s in the way Biolcati approaches their essence that makes Incontre so indelible. Backed by a group of apt players, each performance is original and memorable.
January 24, 2020