Enrico Le Noci ‘Social Music’ CD (A.MA) 4/5

“Social Music”, the debut release from young Italian guitarist Enrico Le Noci, is in many ways a breath of fresh air. His music leans affectionately back to the jazz traditions served up from a bygone Blue Note era, whilst incorporating a fresh contemporary European feel that embodies a youthful joy of expression. The vibe is cool, the writing is mature, and the performances on this recording are exemplary.

Featuring Gadi Lehavi on piano, Felix Rossy on trumpet, Giulio Scianatico on double bass and Andrea Niccolai on drums, this quintet are winning well deserved praise in Italy, and with this album release one would imagine their stock can only be raised to a higher level as their music reaches wider shores.

Eight tunes feature on this session, each of them embodying the core principles of what this band are all about; intelligent hooks, to-die-for riffs, and beautifully executed musicianship. There’s an equality and equanimity to the whole thing, with all five musicians shining in equal measure, not just the band-leader. And that’s one of the reasons this album works so well, with Le Noci allowing everyone to contribute and feel a part of a unified collective, which very much benefits the overall recording.

“One For Cedar” kicks off proceedings, taking me back to a 1960’s New York jazz club. There’s a clear post-bop ambience filling the room, with only the music successfully cutting through the smokey atmosphere. “Solo Ida” jumps us forward by twenty years or so, with its very subtle Brazilian vibe bringing light and sunshine to a breezy beech somewhere on a lost horizon. It shares a thing or two with a couple of Marc Johnson albums I’ve heard… music for the summer might be an apt description. The title track “Social Music” throws us back into Blue Note waters as we swim alongside Wayne Shorter, riding the crest of a musical wave with a thrilling balance of skill and creativity. And as we come down from that wave we rest a while for reflection with “Leaves Like That”, just taking in the events so far, contemplating perhaps where to go next. And with that thought the band turn a page and take us into the 21st Century with the stunning “One For Humanity”. Reminiscent of a duetting Brad Mehldau and Pat Metheny, there’s a spark of life within the music that suggests pastures new, filled with hope and joy. “Icarus Dream”, something of a slow burner of a track, takes the listener on a journey that gradually builds with meaning, until the music ignites with fierce, flaming passion. And with “Heavy Lunch” we find ourselves walking into fusion city. Not so much ‘Heavy Weather’, more like a modern take on Herbie’s Headhunters. The album closes with the silky smooth “For Nuts Only”, reigniting a smouldering flame that was left behind by Donald Byrd.

All in all, “Social Music” is a very enjoyable adventure. The writing is excellent, the performances warm, intuitive and intelligent, and the production levels of a very high standard. I’d highly recommend it, and on the evidence of what I’ve heard on this recording, I would say that Enrico Le Noci has a very bright future ahead of him.

Mike Gates