Federico Ughi: Songs For Four Cities (2012)
Drummer Federico Ughi's Songs for Four Cities is a poetic meditation on inner and outer geography that's filled with deliciously lyrical tunes. Ughi lived in Italy until age 21, and then spent almost a decade in London before moving to his current home in New York City in 2000. The eight compositions on the CD explore these cities as well as Montreal, Canada, offering highly personal statements that form a sonic autobiography, a personal map of both disquiet and contentment in some of the greatest cities in the world.
Ughi is a staple of the New York City avant-free scene, and over the years he's studied and played with some of jazz's finest musicians, including saxophonist Ornette Coleman, bassist William Parker, and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter. On Songs for Four Cities, he's joined by a formidable group of musicians, each with their own unique voice and depth of experience: saxophonist Darius Jones, bassist Ed Schuller, and pianist Eri Yamamoto, with spoken word on one song by phenomenal vocalist Leila Adu. As fits the theme of the album, this group is an international incident in the best sense, with Ughi from Italy, Yamamoto from Japan, Adu from New Zealand, alongside Americans Jones and Schuller. Everyone in the group is an accomplished free player, but they all have a respect for melody and an ability to get right to the heart of Ughi's beautiful compositions.
Standouts include "Tolmin," a song about New York by way of Slovenia that's given liftoff by Jones' distinctive sax, as rich and piercing as a human cry. "When We Cry" speaks of Ughi's nostalgia for Rome, with pleasing shape-shifting by the quartet as its members twist and turn off the melody. "Pasolini the Painter" evokes the street life of Italy as depicted by the great Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, a majestic song that starts off with Adu's compelling recitation. Another gem is "Claygate," a portrait of the artist as a weary music teacher, dreaming of a better life while taking the train from Claygate to London. It's a beautiful portrayal of frustration tempered by hope, an emotion perfectly displayed by Yamamoto's sparkling solo. And mention must be made of "Shadow Remover," a powerful tribute to New York that includes an evocative solo from Schuller.
Each of the pieces on Songs for Four Cities is alight with clarity and honesty, offering a presentation of the human heart as it seeks and remembers a sense of home. The record has a sense of both searching and finding, with strands of each weaving in waves throughout the compositions. Ughi is to be commended for his distinctive songwriting and playing, as well as for creating a multifaceted work that celebrates the richness of the many worlds in which we live.
Track Listing: Tolmin; When We Cry; Through You; Pasolini the Painter; Claygate; Shadow Remover; Uno Fa Tanto; White.
Personnel: Darius Jones: alto saxophone; Eri Yamamoto: piano; Ed Schuller: bass; Federico Ughi: drums.