Textura weighs in on Luca di Luzio’s new album Globetrotter

TEXTURA

Luca di Luzio: Globetrotter
Luca di Luzio

Globetrotter‘s a thoroughly satisfying fusion exercise by Italian guitarist Luca di Luzio, though not perhaps in the presumed sense. Yes, one could perhaps locate traces of Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, et al. in the material if one were so inclined, but fusion is literally here in the sense of many styles coming together. Contemporary jazz is the foundation, of course, but funk, blues, R&B, soul, and Latin also work their way into di Luzio’s tracks, making the title choice an apt reflection of the recording’s broad scope.

Key to the album’s appeal is melody, the guitarist smartly grounding his cuts with strong, singable themes, and with none of the eight performances exceeding five minutes, Globetrotter is never weakened by excess or bloat. As important to the project as melody is rhythm, which makes di Luzio’s decision to bring Jimmy Haslip and Dave Weckl aboard look brilliant. The grooves they contribute go a long way towards making Globetrotter as strong as it is, with the always-solid Weckl a marvel throughout. Appearing too are George Whitty on keyboards, Max Ionata on tenor sax, and on one piece Alessandro Fariselli on tenor. Six of the tunes were composed by the guitarist, with covers of Coltrane’s “Naima” and Kenny Barron’s “Sunshower” rounding out the set.

Impressing too, of course, is di Luzio, whose fluid, ever-melodic playing on electric, acoustic, and classical guitars is the recording’s center. A soulful player, he elevates the performances with a splendid rhythmic feel and imaginative attack. The versatility exhibited on the release grew out of his time at the Conservatorio di Musica Frescobaldi di Ferrara music conservatory in Italy, from which he graduated with a degree in Jazz guitar, and through studies with renowned artists such as Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Mick Goodrick, Jim Hall, and John Abercrombie. Though di Luzio’s had many teachers, to his credit his playing rarely reflects the overriding influence of any one guitarist.

A wonderful opener, “Smile!” casts a warm spell with a radiant melody voiced in unison by di Luzio and Ionata, Whitty adding to the inviting feel with electric piano and the leader delivering an arresting solo. Ionata contributes a wonderful turn of his own, and Haslip and Weckl hold things together with a tight funk pulse. Dedicated to guitarist Dean Brown, another of di Luzio’s teachers, “Mr Brown” continues the funky feel of the opener with bluesy riffing, this time the pace slowed to an earthy downtempo.

Fariselli’s single appearance occurs in “Jazzlife,” a buoyant, jazz fusion-styled throwdown that sees the guitarist opting for a slightly rawer tone and the players digging into the tune’s slippery swing with conviction. The album’s move into Latin-tinged funk happens in “Elisir,” which sparkles when the leader augments his electric with acoustic and Whitty adds synthesizer to his keyboard flavours. “Pop Fla” is notable for the rather Santana-like character of the leader’s solo, not to mention a swinging Latin-jazz groove that calls to mind the one Steve Wonder fashioned for Innervisions‘ “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing.”

On the covers front, “Sunshower” benefits from a sultry reading that enables di Luzio to strut his soulful side. The keyboards-free “Naima” surprises in a couple of ways, the way the guitarist emphasizes chords and textural shadings as much as melody plus the idea of having Ionata’s sax appear only at the end to voice the composition’s glorious ascent. Whether we’re talking originals or covers, the level of musicianship is so high on Globetrotter, one longs to see its material enacted live. If di Luzio could find a way to have Whitty, Weckl, Haslip, and Ionata accompany him on tour, the date would definitely qualify as a must-see proposition.

April 2019

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