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Roberto Colombo - Botte Da Orbi

Roberto Colombo - Botte Da OrbiRoberto Colombo is now an artistic producer and has worked with bands such as Le Orme and Finisterre and many other prominent Italian musicians.  His musical career kicked off in the early seventies when he formed Smog with Alberto Camerini and later went on to release his first solo album Sfogatevi Bestie in 1976 which is something of a collector’s item today.  Botte da Orbi (tr. Blows All Round), his second album, was released in 1977 but has only recently been released as a remastered CD packaged in the style of a mini LP with gatefold sleeve, bio leaflet and protective CD inner sleeve.

The list of guest musicians (more than 30) on the album reads like a Who’s Who of Italian musicians including Mauro Pagani, Walter Calloni and Lucio Fabbri all of PFM fame.  The list is too long to reproduce here as is the list of instrumentation which includes flugelhorns, trombone, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, alto, tenor and soprano sax, flute, violin, cello…  well, you get the picture.  All that and more plus keyboards, bass, guitar and drums.

And what sort of music would one produce with such a long list of instruments? Jazz-rock with elements of prog rock in the vein of Frank Zappa tinged with irony and humour.  The album opens with Hark, It Grows Dark which instantly reminds me of something Stackridge might have done around this time and the bassoon adds a Gryphon flavour albeit Gryphon tinged with latin jazz.  Blows All Around is a short (sub 2 min) percussive interlude with voice added as a percussion instrument.  Blow Your own Trumpets is a Zappa-esque mix of trumpet, voices, meandering guitar on a bed of offbeat bass and percussion and bassoon which sounds as novel today as it must have done 25 years ago.  Come On, Don’t Be Romantic is a slower retrospective starting with in a mid-Genesis style turning into an Anthony Philips Latin-acoustic sound.  Very cool and tranquil. 

Alegher Alegher opens with a child giggling which is a little weird considering the music starts in classical music mode evolving into jazz-rock, but again, it was just the sort of thing Zappa would do.  Dishuman Dance revolves around a short and highly memorable riff evoking mystery much like the Pink Panther theme does, i.e. non-threatening.  Strange vocal noises make their mark; Donald Duck?  Great track.  The Return of Likembe is a sumptuous mix of Zappa, Gong (jazz period) and Roberto Pla’s Latin Jazz Ensemble with some amazing bass guitar courtesy of Stefano Cerri who was considered to be one of the best bass player’s in the 70’s.  The wind section signals the final track, appropriately titled The End Of The Thirty-Three, which has a sort of Tull ‘Air on a G String’ feel.

Roberto Colombo, whose photo on the inner sleeve bears more than a passing resemblance to the character of Tony the chef in UK TV’s Hollyoaks, not only composed and arranged the music but also plays keyboards, bass and percussion.  As a result of this album he was asked by PFM to collaborate on their successful Passpartu album in 1978.

Whilst Botte da Orbi is sure to appeal to Zappa fans, those who like to broaden their musical horizon will appreciate Colombo’s knack for innovative arrangements that sound as fresh now as they ever did.

Jem Jedrzejewski

www.sublimelabel.com

 

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