Luisa Cottifogli Come Un Albero D'Inverno
Visage Music, Italy
Review by Cliff Furnald
Italian singer Luisa Cottifogli came to my attention in 2000 with her remarkable first recording, Aiò Nenè. The recording was subtitled, "I come from the North, but I am from the South," and explored the dichotomy between Italy's colder, richer, more urban north and its warmer, poorer and more rural south. It bridged that divide, and then went on to incorporate music from Arabic and Indian traditions, as well as modern jazz and avant garde ideas. For all its worldliness, it was ultimately firmly rooted in the south that she proclaimed she was from.
But she was born in the Alps and that is where she returns on Come Un Albero D'Inverno, as she and her ensemble proclaim in the opening track, "Yodel," where they take what in other parts of the world is considered a cliché of the past and place it in the bold, beautiful now.
Cottifogli is a trained vocalist, with a long history in jazz and classical music, trained in Indian vocal music, and fluent in all kinds of Italian folk and popular forms, and she pulls all of that into her exploration of her northern roots in pieces like "Sailing(s)."
She follows that with one of the strongest pieces on the CD, a vocally strong "Monte Canino."
"Monte Canino" (full song)
She incorporates a light Latin beat into some songs, a pure pop sound into others. The album is an exploration of much more than the Alps, but it always maintains a sound that feels Alpine, no matter how far it wanders, even in a classic southern Italian lullaby like "Ninna Nanna," which becomes "Ninnananna nella Neve" (Lullaby in the snow), which also exhibits the album's biggest strength, the a capella tracks.
"Ninnananna nella Neve"
The vocal work is varied and rich, and brings in a variety of regional techniques and modern temperaments. "Permafrost" offers challenges to the ear with just the voices, while her version of "Angus Dei," joined by a female Gregorian choir, slide and processed guitars, electronics and piano brings this ancient hymn into a singular modern space.
"Angus Dei" (full song)
The ensemble can also kick out a contemporary pop sound that still rises above the genres it utilizes, as they do near the end of the recording with "Uselive."
Come Un Albero D'Inverno is one of those records that has no niche to fill, created by a talented vocalist and a notable cast of musicians, writers and arrangers dedicated to the pure joy of each song and a singer of rare versatility. - CF