Gianni Guarracino: Gypsyland

January 30, 2014

Gianni CDBesides being a virtuosic acoustic and electric player, Guarracino is a fine composer and arranger and has worked in that capacity with major artists such as Gino Paoli, Edoardo De Crescenzo, Sal Da Vinci, and legendary flamenco guitarist Paco DeLucia (who also appeared on Guarracino’s 2001 debut album). As might be expected from these associations, Guarracino’s music spans the sonic territory between breezy Mediterranean jazz and more passionate Latin sounds—especially those of Southern Spain—with bits of classical, pop, world-fusion, and smooth jazz in the mix.

On Gypsyland, Guarracino’s third release, he focuses primarily on classical and steel-string acoustic guitars, adding electric on half of the tunes—and no matter which instrument he chooses, his technique is impeccable and his tone rich, clear, and beautiful. Most of the songs are upbeat, propelled by layered hand percussion and the occasional kit drums when there is any percussion at all—and while Guarracino’s guitars remain the primary focus throughout, accordion, cello, flute, saxophone, piano, synthesizer, and the occasional vocal chorus intertwine with the acoustic bass grooves, splashing additional colors onto Guarracino’s brightly lit canvas.

Some of the pieces are reminiscent of the lighter side of Oregon, Weather Report, and Al Di Meola’s more recent work—and those tended to be my favorites. Guarracino’s playing is so emotive, his tones so lovely, and his articulation so nuanced, however, that I also found myself seduced by the smoother fare just because the sounds were irresistibly engaging. This is sophisticated music that works equally well as the center of attention or as, say, musical accompaniment while tooling up the coast from Napoli to the Italian Riviera in your Lamborghini.

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