Category Archives: CD-Reviews

Review a CD / album

Billy Prim: Thalassa

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Today’s album comes from Greek drummer Billy Prim and is called “Thalassa” which is the Greek word for sea. Billy lives and works in Budapest and he recorded this album with some great musicians from Hungary. The line-up is:

  • Attila Blaho – Piano
  • Andor Horváth – Double Bass
  • Júlia Csillag – Voice
  • Áron Turcsányi – Electric Bass
  • Billy Prim – Drums

Billy explained to me the creation-process of this album:  “The whole album is a first take, we did not record any song a second time. At that given moment in my life I had the chance to realize and see the collateral beauty of effortlessness. Each song is not perfectly rehearsed, I wanted to give to every song a real feeling of pure energy and pleasure in our playing.”

The album starts with “Enlightenment” a very impressionistic song with the piano playing steady arpeggios and the drums producing the sound of waves and little stones at the beach.

“Waves of Emotion” is the next song and it stays initially in this impressionistic and melancholic mood, Andor Horváth on double bass enjoys a lot of freedom in his playing. The band increases the intensity and the dynamics at around 5 minutes and reduces volume for a very special bass solo.

Billy produced a nice video for this song:

“Keep the Child Alive in You” picks up much faster after the piano introduction before it switches to a very slow ballad. Áron Turcsányi on electric bass caters for the distinct sound in this song. This song is my personal highlight on the album, it shows perfectly the dynamic range which this band is able to master and you can feel the energy and the pleasure in the playing, which Billy explained.

“Én Felkelék” features singer Júlia Csillag. The melody she sings is a traditional Christian folk-song accompanied by drums and electronic keyboard, a complete different sound and mood but also very atmospheric, not in contrast but in addition to the other songs on the album.

The album closes with “Midnight Sea” returning to the classical piano trio line-up with Andor Horváth on double bass. He is also featured in his song. Piano and some soft drumming prepare the layer on which Andor Horváth improvises rather freely.

Billy Prim with the great support from an outstanding Andor Horvath on piano created a beautiful album that shows all the elements of contemporary European jazz music where a line is drawn from traditional and classical music into improvisational music. Especially Hungary seems to be the place where all those elements are easily accessible and where jazz musicians take advantage of them.

The reaction on the live performances are according to Billy Prim all very positive, even excited. So when being asked if the album shows the same level of spontaneity as the concert it is easy for him to answer with a simple “Yes” because the circumstances of the recording and the live situation during a concert are not really different. Congratulations on this album.

For more information about Billy Prim check out his website:

http://www.billyprim.com/

And here is the complete album on Spotify:

Claudio Scolari Project: Upside Down

The Claudio Scolari Project has released a new album in October 2019 and this band continues its journey in free and improvised music. The evolution of the band is obvious and the focus of the album is on live performance. Everything on the album was live improvised and recorded.

To have this full and balanced sound the band added a bass player and the line-up is now:

  • Claudio Scolari: Drum set 1, Synth Programming
  • Daniele Cavalca: Drum Set 2, Live Synths, Rhodes, Piano
  • Simone Scolari: Trumpet
  • Michele Cavalca: Electric Bass

The advantage of this line-up is evident and answers one of the question which many people might have asked: Is it possible to play the music live on stage? This is now clearly the case and the following video shows the band playing the song “Wired”:

The album starts with “Smoke in C Minor”, a song that features  Daniele Cavalca on piano. It has some typical elements of this band, the pulse comes from the drums (with some surprising breathing pauses) and the acoustic piano is spiced up by electronic sounds.

We hear the full band with bass and trumpet in “Underground Soul”. This song begins soft but steady with the piano introducing the main riff, the piano and trumpet hold a dialog which is joined by the bass. At around 5:00 min the steady pulse is opened by the drums and all musicians improvise freely. Daniele Cavalca returns to the main riff to end the song. Very impressive.

“Upside Road” is a dialog between drums and a funky Rhodes piano with some additional synthesizer elements.

In “And I’ll Make You Smile” the complete band returns. The main riff for this song is again kind of funky and either the rhythmic or the melodic pattern of this riff is kept throughout the song.

The title song “Upside Down” comes next. The drums groove in a classical swing style and after a lengthy introduction the piano introduces the main theme which is complemented with trumpet fills. Claudio Scolari keeps his steady pace and the other musicians have the space and freedom to improvise together.

“Twister” is drum duo piece which I was also hoping to hear once. Very sophisticated  playing by Claudio Scolari and Daniele Cavalca show the many sounds of two extended drum sets.

“Syrah Hangover” impresses with its beautiful harmonic structure. The melody comes from the trumpet this time and synthesizer sounds dominate the background. I like the synthetic sounds by Daniele Cavalca very much, in a way they sound not too digital, even a little bit old-fashioned.

“Wired” comes next and this song is definitely my favorite on the album. Some nice stereo effects in the introduction, a beautiful spacious motif from Simone Scolari on trumpet, a grooving bass and really pushing drums create an incredible intensity in this song. Very powerful.

“Bismantova Castle” is as an open dialog between Michele Cavalca on bass and Simone Scolari on trumpet. The trumpet sound has a lot of echo and is very spacious while the bass is rather direct without effects which gives this song its nice contrast.

The album ends with another drum duet called “Fast And Last” which is fast and furious and sounds to me like a spontaneous session which was recorded, a little bit like an unplugged encore but nevertheless sounding great.

The Claudio Scolari Project has reached another level of freedom with this album, it has found it’s own sound and style and it is now in a position to perform this music live. So I hope some festival organizers become aware of this incredible band and invite them. I would really love to see this band playing live.

And finally a playlist of this album on Spotify: