Andy Hamilton – The WIRE, Sept. 2021
Italian quartet Roots Magic have recorded on Clean Feed, most recently on the compelling Take Root Among the Stars. The festival is their second appearance as a sextet, with expanded arrangements featuring Alberto Popolla (clarinets), Errico De Fabritiis (alto and baritone saxophone), Eugenio Colombo (flute and soprano saxophone), Francesco Lo Cascio (vibraphone), Gianfranco Tedeschi (bass) and Fabrizio Spera (drums).
Their repertoire is a distinctive and welcome mix of classic blues by such as Skip James and Charley Patton, blues-infused free jazz and original compositions indebted to those genres – in total, a thoughtful and compelling concept.
The set included two pieces from Take Root, Skip James’s electrifying “Devil Got My Woman” and Maurice McIntyre’s ecstatic “Humility In The Light Of The Creator”. The first of these begins with a duet between wispy flute and bass transformed into full on jazz rock. The band dedicates McIntyre’s piece with its haunting a cappella bass clarinet intro and furious finale, to the late percussionist Milford Graves. “Run As Slow As You Can” is a hypnotic original featuring baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, transmuting a captivating groove into freedom. “Blue Lives” is a new dedication to Muhal Richard Abrams; Colombo’s plangent flute solo featured multiphonic buzzing, and a compelling contrapuntal duet with vibraharp. The gentle “November Cotton Flower” by Marion Brown is a bucolic classic, with a free introduction and lilting rhythm. In this spectacular performance the sextet gives the impression of a much bigger band, and makes for a fitting festival finale.
Martin Longley – Jazzwise, Sept. 2021
Roots Magic arrived from Italy, firstly with a more traditionally avant garde jazz, rooted in the 1960s and 70s, secondly with a wily sense of humour, absurdist yet dark. Their multiple horn-swapping also lent an air of experimental folk anarchy, even though the numbers were sharply organised. The clarinets, saxophones, flutes, vibraphone, bass and drums combined to craft a filmic, episodic nature, brash and bright. At a couple of points they were firing on bass clarinet and baritone saxophone. At others their music sounded like skipping Celtic folk. They made direct musical dedications to Milford Graves and Muhal Richard Abrams, making a rousing funeral pyre to bid farewell, loud and magnificent, they closed out the festival with a kind of nostalgic extremism.