The Italian composer and bassist’s third RareNoise release (after Frequent Flyer and KOI) continues his path towards a unique musical language bridging jazz and rock.
Feliciati is accompanied by a plethora of exceptional musicians from across the globe.
As a follow-up to his most personal project to date, 2015’s KOI, in-demand Italian session bassist and RareNoise recording artist Lorenzo Feliciati has upped the ante on his latest project, Elevator Man. A powerhouse recording with echoes of King Crimson, Allan Holdsworth and other Prog Rock icons, this latest outing by the prolific bassist-composer-arranger features a rotating cast of stellar musicians, including King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, former Holdsworth drummer Chad Wackerman, Swedish Freak Guitar shredder Mattias IA Eklundh (of the Jonas Hellborg Trio and Art Metal), Italian progressive metal guitarist Marco Sfogli (currently of the legendary Italian Prog Rock band Premiata Forneria Marconi, aka PFM), trumpeter Cuong Vu and Feliciati’s Naked Truth bandmate Roy Powell on distortion-laced clavinet. As well as composing and arranging all the material, Feliciati plays fretted and fretless basses, electric guitar and keyboards on his seventh and most potent recording as a leader to date “Elevator Man has a different lineup on every song,” explains Feliciati, a member of RareNoise bands Naked Truth, Berserk!, Twinscapes and Mumpbeak. “It’s the same ‘one song-one line up’ philosophy that I used on Frequent Flyer, but this time all the music for Elevator Man was composed at the same time, in a three-month period. So I was probably able to concentrate more and think more deeply about the direction of the album. And while a varied stylistic approach is something I always try to achieve, this one has a more clear Prog Rock flavor that was a planned decision. After KOI, I felt the need to move from the soundtrack-ambient soundscapes attitude that is a crucial ingredient of both KOI and Twinscapes, my duo project with bassist Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree, to a more songs-oriented project.”
From the opening track, “Elevator Man,” Feliciati shifts to the dynamic “The Brick,” “14 Stories opens with an ambient, mysterioso vibe the top before the piece erupts into an orchestral crescendo. The melancholy ballad “Black Book, Red Letter,” also highlights some lyrical trumpet playing and some impassioned soloing from the alto saxophonist. The aggressive rocker “Three Women” has Feliciati grooving on fretless bass while “Unchained Houdini” is a slamming jam that pits Feliciati’s bass, guitar and keys against some whirlwind wailing on the kit. “The Third Door” has Feliciati going mano-a-mano with a turntable wizard while “S.O.S.” introduces a mellow vibraphone and an intense guitarist. The swinging “Thief Like Me,” features a strong bass solo from Feliciati, who also anchors the proceedings on Moog bass. And the haunting closer, “U Turn in Falmouth,” has Feliciati interacting on bass, guitars and keyboards. “The power to have these great musicians ready to play on the songs forced me to be a more focused composer on this project,” said Feliciati. “So this one is less on the abstract/improvised side. When you have so many amazing musicians ready to collaborate with you, you are the luckiest person in the world but you must have a very clear idea of what you will ask them to play on, what you want them to add to your music.”
Feliciati, who has worked with some of the great drummers throughout his career, seemed especially pleased with the crew of time-keepers he was able to recruit for Elevator Man. ”I love drums and drummers and to have such great players on this album as Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Stickmen), Chad Wackerman, Roberto Gualdi (PFM), Davide Pettirossi, Armando Croce, Gianluca Palmieri (Greg Howe Band) and the young star Davide Savarese is such a wonderful privilege. To compose some music and have so many choices in front of you is wonderful. And to realize that everyone involved is enthusiastic and willing to collaborate is truly fantastic.”
He also heaped high praise on the two sensational guitarists who appear on Elevator Man. “Marco Sfogli is a great friend of mine and we played together several times,” explains Feliciati. “I played on his latest solo album. Mattias Ecklundh did a masterclass at the school where I was teaching in Rome. I asked to do some music together and he enthusiastically agreed. I was happy when he agreed to play on this record.”
Returning from KOI is the three-piece horn section of trombonist Pierluigi Bastioli, baritone saxophonist Duiliu Ingress and bass trombonist Stan Adams, who also arranged and conducted the section. “The idea for the horns came while working on KOI, where the same three-piece section plays on several tracks,” Feliciati explains. “I was wondering about doubling the bass riffs with a horn section on that recording but I immediately understood that a funky-jazzy section of trumpet/sax/trombone would have been too conventional or traditional sounding. So I switched to this low-end section consisting of bass trombone, trombone and baritone sax, and the final result was so good I immediately decided to use them on some of the songs of Elevator Man.”
The bassist-composer-arranger describes his daily creative process that has led to the realization of such visionary projects as Frequent Flyer, Koi and Elevator Man: “I love to wake up early in the morning, have
breakfast with family and then walk upstairs to my home studio and ask myself, ‘What do you like to work on today?’ I always had a home studio and the technology related to recording (software like ProTools, etc.) became way less expensive. This way I can work on different projects at the same time, switching from one to another; not to mention all the sessions I do at home for music that arrives via Dropbox from all over the world, People want me on their music and with the files-exchange approach they can have my bass track on their album easily and fast.”
The great bassist also acknowledges the towering influence of Jaco Pastorius on his own playing and on this recording, particularly on “Elevator Man”, “S.O.S.” and “Black Book, Red Letter.” Says Feliciati of Jaco’s influence: “For me you can easily divide not only bass playing but also Jazz Rock Fusion in before Jaco/after Jaco segments. The influence he had on my love for the bass and music is endless. I saw Weather Report in 1980 in Rome on their Night Passage tour. That night changed my life. I decided to play the bass after that because I realized how much the instrument can drive a band and be the center of the sonic spectrum. If the song, the music needed one note, Jaco was playing one note…if the song needed one hundred he was playing the right ones the most soulful ones and with such an incredible timing and groove. But I really love Jaco the composer. And of all the wonderful tunes he wrote and played, the one that is touching me the most is still ‘John and Mary’ from his Word of Mouth album. Together with Night Passage and Joni Mitchell’s Shadows and Light, these are timeless classics.
That Pastorius influence is present throughout Elevator Man. But Feliciati also carves out his own unique niche on this superb prog-rock flavored outing.
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