…In contrast, one band that has achieved and amplified the balance between its varied influences is the Italian Roots Magic quartet that played the NFM Friday night. Taking its inspiration from 1930s Delta Blues and 1960s free jazz, Alberto Popolla on clarinet and bass clarinet, Errico De Fabritiis on saxophones, bassist Gianfranco Tedeschi and percussionist Fabrizio Spera became a cohesive unit that subtly educated as it entertained. Unlike the free-form the members brought to earlier house concert jams, the carefully introduced material which encompassed compositions ranging from Roscoe Mitchell and Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre to Charley Patton and Blind Willie Johnson, was both righteous and raucous and performed with no hints of Italian melodrama. Instead, thick double bass stops and popping drum beats provide enough ballast upon which Popolla’s fluid double-tonguing and De Fabritiis baritone snorts or staccato alto runs isolated the tunes’ essence to create a transformative narrative.
Roots Magic, an Italian quartet spurred by clarinetist Alberto Popolla and drummer Fabrizio Spera, made their Polish debut with a soulful sound, drawing deep connections between early Delta blues and “The New Thing”. Thus the setlist ranged from Geeshie Wiley’s “Last Kind Words”, Charley Patton’s “Down the Dirt Road Blues” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night (Cold Was The Ground)” to Roscoe Mitchell’s “Old”, Ornette Coleman’s “A Girl Named Rainbow”, Maurice McIntyre’s “Humility in the Light of the Creator” and Marion Brown’s “November Cotton Flower”, encoring with Sun Ra’s “A Call for All Demons”. By set’s end, any heretofore unsuspected connections between down-home blues and avant jazz had become patently obvious. Tom Greenland – New York City Jazz Records – January 2019