“The mysterious music of Queen Loana” is a delightful album featuring alto and piccolo clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi and accordionist Gianna Coscia. The duo go back a long way together, as friends and musicians, sharing their love of music on three previous ECM releases between 1999 and 2009. On this present recording, they pay tribute to their distinguished comrade Umberto Eco. This album takes its title from Eco’s partly autobiographical novel of the same name, inspiring Trovesi and Coscia to embark on their own nostalgic and exploratory journey.
The Italian musicians cast a wide net with their choice of music. Playing songs associated with artists ranging from Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, George Fornby, Hupfeld and Janacek, alongside their own compositions, they cover a lot of ground and musical styles while keeping their dedicatee in view. “We have tried to run back through some of the book’s countless musical cues, as best we could and with no claims to completeness”, says Coscia. “In some cases, we have also inserted a few things that the author certainly had in mind but didn’t express explicitly.”
There is a very warm, nostalgic and romantic feel to this album. One can imagine the duo feeling just as comfortable performing together in a small Italian cafe as in an austere concert hall. Trovesi and Coscia share a telepathic-like musical understanding and are obviously in their element working together. The combination of the instruments create a melodic grace and each musician utilises his rhythmic virtuosity to bring life and light to the music being performed.
The album opens with “Interludio”, a piece that Unberto Eco and Gianni Coscia collaborated on more than 70 years ago when Coscia was 14 and Eco 13. There’s a tenderness and warmth to the playing that leaves the listener smiling and yet somehow reminiscing on his own past. The charming “Basin Street Blues” evokes memories of Louis Armstrong and an era of early jazz and all its tradition. Other favourites include an evocative “As time goes by”, the luscious “Moonlight Serenade”, and the duo’s self-penned tribute, “Umberto”.
In exploring their musical memories, Trovesi and Coscia have crafted an intoxicating album that not only pays homage to Umberto Eco, but also illuminates the duo’s music in a way that opens it up to a wider audience. That said, this is in fairness an album mainly for devotees of this kind of music/ accordion and clarinet instrumentation, but it does also offer a fresh and captivating listen to discerning jazz, classical and chamber music devotees who are open to a pleasing bit of musical craftsmanship and nostalgia.