Riccardo Tesi
& Maurizio Geri,
Acqua, Foco e Vento
(Water, Fire & Wind)

(Felmay, 2002)

Riccardo Tesi is one of those artists who makes you wonder, "Why haven't I heard of you before?"

The Pistoian/Tuscan/Italian melodeon player, here teamed with vocalist/guitarist Maurizio Geri, has been around some time on the edges of Italian folk and world music. He's the driving force in Banditalia and has a long, if not prolific, recording career. Here on Acqua, Foco e Vento, Tesi brings the music of his native Pistoia, just north of Florence, to life.

Acqua, Foco e Vento is almost 70 minutes of fabulous music, but it would be worth buying it for two tracks alone: "Cos'e'uno" and "Tonio Romito" (tracks 5 and 6 on the CD), both lively interpretations of traditional songs. "Cos'e'uno" is a religious counting song in three-part harmony where each number represents something in the church (four is for the gospels, three is for the magi, etc.) -- it sounds divinely inspired for sure (and non-Catholics like ourselves still like it). "Tonio Romito" is a children's street song turned into a contemporary rap number. Just don't try singing along; you'll be tongue-tied, and permanently so.

The four-song set "Pastorale" including the shepherd's call-and-response song "Oili Oila," is also a highlight, as is the wedding list song "La Cena Della Sposa." These are tremendous favorites of the whole family, including my Beethoven-loving wife (who is awakening to the joys of traditional music) and our 4-year-old junior music critic. The voices of Geri and others blend beautifully in powerful harmonies on these songs.

In between, there are over a dozen beautiful songs that evoke Pistoia. The songs deal with the hard work of labourers, the condition of women, everyday events. The sound is often reminiscent of the Portuguese band Madredeus, or at times of Basque accordionist Kepa Junkera, with whom Tesi has shared the stage. It's an ever-changing musical landscape, sometimes soft and slow, other times fast and energetic. Tesi, an accomplished melodeon player and Geri, a likeable vocal interpreter, accomplish this with the aid of about a dozen musicians including fine vocalist Anna Granata.

Lyrics in Italian are included, along with short descriptions of the songs in English and French, in a colourful booklet. The only problem with this CD is that you might end up listening to it almost constantly. That's OK, since it has variety, and also has the positive effect of mitigating a cold Canadian winter: you can actually picture yourself in sunny Tuscany while listening to it. This one rates a 10 out of 10.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 28 February 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.