wed 17/07/2024

Nicola Conte, Ronnie Scott's | reviews, news & interviews

Nicola Conte, Ronnie Scott's

Nicola Conte, Ronnie Scott's

The Italian DJ, producer and musician lights up Soho with feel-good retro stylings

From finger-snapping soul to spiritual jazzPhoto: Benjamin Amure

Gloriously feel-good, unashamedly retro, uniformly urbane, the Nicola Conte Combo presented a set that was bursting with fantastic melodies last night at Ronnie Scott's.

Performing music from last year's Free Souls and his 2011 album Love & Revolution, listening to the Italian DJ, producer and guitarist's music is rather like falling into a jazz wormhole, a wondrous peregrination through the past, from the finger-snapping soul-jazz of Horace Silver (the great "Shades of Joy" surely nods to Silver's classic "Song For My Father") and the all-embracing polystylism of Archie Shepp, to the spiritual aspect of Black Jazz Records and the jazz poetry of Langston Hughes.

Yet the music never sounded recycled or museum-like. Featuring Conte on guitar, the Brooklyn-based vocalist Melanie Charles (who also contributed some nifty flute work on “Quiet Dawn”), Magnus Lindgren on sax, flute and clarinet, Pietro Lussu on piano and Wurlitzer, Luca Alemanno on upright and electric bass, and, making his Ronnie's debut, Marco Valeri on drums, the group sound was ballasted by the brilliant, rhapsodically beautiful pianism of Lussu, whose ecstatic solo on “Love From the Sun” was a highlight.

Charles's rich, honey-dripping voice was perfect for this music, with the singer investing everything she sang with a moving sensitivity to the melodic line and a beauty of tone that went straight to the heart, from the plaintive spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and marble-smooth “Soul Revelation” to the hieratic “Black Spirits”, the latter featuring a barnstorming tenor sax solo from Lindgren.

The varicoloured arrangements were rich in detail and nuance

Performed with a lapidary precision, the varicoloured arrangements were rich in detail and nuance yet never so cluttered that you couldn't parse individual lines. The material was constructed around hypnotically repeating and incantatory vamps whose sole purpose was to coax the listener into a state of joy and wonder. Underpinning everything was Valeri's relentless, propulsive groove - he certainly earned his gig money.

Setting the evening's Italian theme, the fabulous opening set from the Georgia Mancio Quartet kicked off with a heart-warming take on “This Heart of Mine”, penned by the prolific Harry Warren (born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna) and made famous in the movie Ziegfield Follies. Featuring Robin Aspland on piano, Mark Hodgson on bass and Dave Ohm on drums, Mancio then delivered an achingly lovely, über-slow "Estate", written in 1960 by the Italian composer, singer and pianist Bruno Martino, a song which has now entered the jazz canon. The quartet's set was rounded off by an energising romp through “That Old Black Magic” (great solo by Ohm here) and the bittersweet classic “We'll Be Together Again”, two of the standout tracks from Mancio's most recent album, Come Rain Or Come Shine.

Hypnotically repeating and incantatory vamps coaxed the listener into a state of joy and wonder


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters