Filomena Campus & Giorgio Serci @ Pizza Express

Filomena Campus & Giorgio Serci with Special Guest, Paolo Fresu – ‘Scaramouche’ Album Launch – Pizza Express Jazz Bar, London

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

This was the third of in the sequence of a memorable three night residency for Filomena Campus’ ‘My Jazz Islands’, but also doubled as the album launch for new release ‘Scaramouche’, a joint venture between herself and fellow Sardinian Classical/Jazz guitarist and award winner Giorgio Serci. Having already been a ‘Band Leader’ and ‘A Jester of Jazz,’ this third night saw the freestyle improviser, lyricist and theatre director reincarnate once again as part representation of *’Scaramouche’, the other half potrayed by guitarist Serci.

Following a personal introduction from Pizza Express’ Music Manager, Ross Dines, it was Filomena, Giorgio, and Adriano Adewale who initially took to the stage to enthusiastic applause from the sold-out audience. Addressing the microphone Ms Campus explained her excitement about the evening ahead, “It’s been a fantastic three days I have to say…And this is the album launch with this fantastic musician on my left Giorgio Serci. It took two years, but we finally made it. And this is our new album ‘Scaramouche…’ All the music is written by Giorgio Serci, and myself. And we start with ‘Primavera’ with Giorgio Serci and Adriano Adewale.”

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

Mr Serci’s sensitive plucking his classical guitar strings, accompanied by Adriano Adewale’s percussive inflections instantly and evoked images of warm alfresco afternoons sitting in a waterside fish restaurant with the Sardinian sun-rays gently caressing ones face, whilst Mediterranean waves softly lap against the shore. Filomena Campus subtley interjected with her trademark freestyle floating vocal, mirrored by her relaxed free-flowing bodily movements. For some reason ‘Primavera’ has both a mystical and hypnotic quality about it, drawing the listener unconsciously into it’s musical web. The Jazz Bar audience were no different as they sat with eyes transfixed on the stage, especially during Giorgio’s sumptuous guitar solo.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

As introduction to the next song Filomena went on to edify the accomplished percussionist Adriano Adewale with whom she shared the stage, “As we have a very, very special Brazilian man on stage with us tonight, we’re going to play songs inspired by another Brazilian musician and dedicated to Hermeto Pascoal. And this tune is called Hermetico.” The trio then segued into the fresh, frisky and frantic vibes of the aforementioned tune, with Adriano and Giorgio initiating proceedings with some musical jousting between percussionist and guitarist. Having observed the duo from the wings for nearly two minutes, Ms Campus joined the party, vocally painting vivid abstract images of a sun soaked day in Brazil.

After three minutes, Both Filomena and Adriano had their own vocal sparring session as they freestyled back and forth with vigour, whilst Adriano manically bashed his tambourine, yet still keeping a percussive rhythm in harmony with the song. Giorgio delicately eased this classical guitar strings back into the frame as the three of them brought the tune home. In ‘Round Midday’ Ms Campus paid homage to Jack Hirschman, one of the last generation ‘Beat Poets,’ who now resides and performs in San Francisco, adapting one of his poems, ‘Human Interlude.’ The trio remained on stage as Filomena began her storybook-esque monologue; standing next to a seated Giorgio Serci who’s playing sympathetically mirrored her words, Mr Adewale maintaining a low-key but effective percussive presence in the background.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

“In these three days I been playing with some of my most favourite musicians ever; and one in a particular has been my “Maestro.” … Actually I discovered this was my life when I did a Jazz workshop back in 1998 with Mr Paolo Fresu!” And with that introduction the highly respected Sardinian trumpet/flugelhorn player skipped onto the stage and warmly embraced his pupil. After paying Paolo some more well deserved compliments, Filomena welcomed to the stage a homegrown musical magician and original Jazz Warrior. “When I arrived in England, I found the support of another incredible “Maestro,” he’s one of my best friends; he’s like a brother to me; he’s one of the best Jazz musicians we have in the UK, Mr Orphy Robinson!”

With all the bases loaded, a glowing and humbled Filomena Campus, fittingly on this momentous album launch occasion for both her and Giorgio (as he wrote both the lyrics and music), explained the background to the next tune ‘Momentum,’ which, as it transpired, was one of the last tracks recorded by legendary trumpet/flugal horn player/conductor/inspirer Mr Kenny Wheeler before his recent passing. So it was extremely evident how honoured she was to have Paolo Fresu on stage to pay homage to his memory. True to its name, the tune gradually built momentum, with each musician patiently playing well within their limitations; Filomena breathiliy sung the succinct but emotive lyrics. After approximately four minutes and fifty seconds, Filomena eased back from the microphone stand allowing Poalo Fresu to take centre stage. Senor Fresu then proceeded to play a sublimely measured, poised and majestic flugelhorn solo that the late Kenny Wheeler would have been proud to deliver himself. It was the perfect tribute from one legendary trumpet player to another.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

The musical baton was then handed over to the ‘Master Vibes Player’ Orphy Robinson. Unsurprisingly, there was no dropped baton here; on the contrary it was a move transition from one seasoned exponent of his instrument to another. Mr Robinson’s vividly coloured orange baubles on the ends of his Xylosynth sticks became a blur given the speed and swiftness with which Orphy traversed across his instrument, amazingly striking each individual block flush and moreover note perfect, as he offered up a truly impassioned solo, sweat glistening from his brow. Once these two musical heavyweights had completed their respective solos, Ms Campus once again addressed the microphone, softly reminding us of the lyrics from earlier whilst navigating the song to a peaceful conclusion.

The first set ended with Filomena explaining the symbolism behind the title track ‘Scaramouche’ and how the character ‘Scaramouche’ is representative of both her theatrical background and Giorgio’s background in that he plays guitar. This tune was full of both vocal and musical intricacies and fluctuations, with Paolo Fresu switching between trumpet and flugelhorn. The tune increased in intensity, with all five artists manoeuvring and swaying frantically, building to a rousing crescendo, before dying down completely, like an eighty mile an hour wind suddenly dropping to zero in an instant.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

Set two saw Paolo Fresu and Orphy Robinson take to the stage, initiating proceedings with an imaginative, innovative and inventive free improvisational blitz; with both musicians creating abstract sound-scapes for near on nine minutes. At this juncture Filomena Campus having assessed the vibe from the parameters sauntered into the frame and intuitively picked up on the free-flowing improvisational rhythmic grove. It was a joy to watch these three artists creating such musical mastery from scratch. The art of free improv is most definitely alive and well. With the crowd still clapping in wonderment from the previous musical exploits, Ms Campus welcomed to the stage another compatriot, drummer and percussionist Enzo Zirilli to join the existing ensemble.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

The atmosphere in this intimate venue was electric as the Sardinian songstress explained that she had performed the next song at the end of an extensive period of study under her mentor Paolo Fresu, when she first started out. The strains of ‘Everybody Song, But My Own’ penned by the late Kenny Wheeler rippled out across the audience. It is truly a beautiful tune which comes to life even more so in the live arena when performed by six international artists with phenomenal skill sets. The powerhouse percussion and rhythm section of Adriano Adewale alongside Enzo Zirilli, provided a solid, foot tapping backbeat, allowing Giorgio Serci, Paolo Fresu, Orphy Robinson and Filomena Campus free rein to express themselves to the maximum within the confines of the song. The use of reverb on Paolo’s flugelhorn added a haunting ambience to the tune. Again, he did not disappoint as he lay down another flawless horn solo, stirring Mr Robinson into action to do likewise.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

The masterclass continued as Filomena, Adriano and Enzo upped the tempo taking the tune to another stratosphere, playfully and exuberantly interacting of another, Filomena, showing precisely why she is regarded as the best in her field, with regard to the hard to master free improvisational art form. The myriad of notes, tones and pitch variations emanating from the Sardinians vocal chords and lungs was truly a wonder to behold. It was as if she was performing outside of her physical being, letting the music infiltrate her mind, soul and body. Her passionate display only served to motivate Mr Adewale and Mr Zirilli to raise their game heightening their drum and percussion output markedly to an almost feverish level. All the while Giorgio Serci was metronomically strumming his guitar whilst keenly observing all that was going on before him.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

You know for sure when you’re at a great gig, when the hours drift by effortlessly because you’re so into the music. Suddenly conscious of this fact, Filomena apologised if anyone had to catch late-night transport home. She needn’t have worried, because we were prepared to stay until dawn if need be, the vibe was that good. Alas, the final tune, ‘Campidano’ was upon us. As the age old saying goes,’They definitely left the best till last!” ‘Campidano’ incorporates all the elements of Giorgio Serci’s trademark writing style – a jaunty, infectious and engaging composition which automatically invites Filomena to weave her spirited vocal throughout. Four more superlative individual solos followed. Firstly Giorgio Serci evoked crystal clear images of wild flowers swaying carefree in the Sardinian countryside.

Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

Three-thirds of the way through Ms Campus chimed in with the same wild abandonment as the aforementioned wild Sardinian flowers, flexing her back in order to obtain the required notes. Special guest Paolo Fresu then gave us a mellow Miles Davis-esque muted trumpet offering, which segued smoothly into another scintillating Orphy Robinson xylosynth display. The icing on the cake was a percussive performance of epic proportions from the brilliant Brazilian Adriano Adewale, whose dexterity and elasticity, switching between the array of percussive instruments before him was a joy to behold. All in all Filomena Campus’ and Giorgio Serci’s ‘Scaramouche’ album launch was an unheralded an unmitigated success, and given the popularity of the three nights, expect an extended run of ‘My Jazz Islands’ in the coming years.

Michael J Edwards

‘Scaramouche’ refers to 16th century masked theatre performances of the ‘Commedia dell’arte all’ improvviso'(comedy of the very creative ability of improvisation).

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Photo: Courtesy of Antonello Brughitta

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