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Traversata – Beppe Gambetta, Carlo Aonzo, David Grisman

Acoustic Disc 47

As someone of Italian descent, I get tired of seeing those of my ethnic

background personified as mobsters, sluts, fat jerks and … um, I think that

covers it. Not that I'm a tightass about everything. I'll watch "The

Sopranos" just like many others do, but it's about variety rather than easy

stereotypes.

It's something I think fans of jamband music can identify with, since

those who aren't familiar with the bands and the sounds merely view it as one

looooooooong solo from one act that isn't distinguishable from the next one.

When it comes to Italian music, all everyone knows (including myself) are

polkas and the theme to "The Godfather". Sure, there are the operatic notes

of Pavarotti and Bocelli and Rat Packers Sinatra and Martin but it seems as

if there's a vast musical wasteland within the borders of Italy.

Then "Traversata" shows up and becomes an instant history lesson. The

title translates to "ocean crossing", which is what numerous Italians did in

order to make a new life in America. With timing being an important aspect in

life, it turns out that my mom has been searching the Ellis Island website in

order to learn about our ancestors first steps in this country. "Traversata"

has become the soundtrack to that endeavor.

Giving it an immediate stamp of approval is David Grisman, the organizer

of this recording. He heard Beppe Gambetta (harp-guitar/guitar) and Carlo

Aonzo (mandolin) perform backstage following a David Grisman Quintet concert.

Both accomplished players were visiting this country from Italy.

His invitation for them to record on the Acoustic Disc label led to them

to ask Grisman to join in the proceedings on mandolin and mandolas. Together,

they came up with the idea of presenting Italian folk numbers as a way to

highlight the country's musical heritage that was transported to this

country. The album is subtitled "Italian Music in America."

Due to the melting pot nature of the United States, the music from the

latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century changed and eventually

influenced those in the homeland. Grisman used a similar approach on "Songs

of Our Fathers."

To add to the historical atmosphere of this work, the 20-page CD booklet

includes information on the project, the players and information on the

numbers performed.

None of this would matter much if the music was sleep inducing.

Unsurprisingly, it's far from that. "Traversata" is exquisitely recorded in a

"near field studio environment conducive to instrument separation and minimum

microphone phase interference."

While much of the material evokes visions of Tuscany' s beautiful lush

landscape or seaside towns and cafes sipping wine and chatting away the day

and night with the locals, some surprises do pop up. There's the finger

picking style displayed on the 1922 tune by Nick Lucas (the Americanized name

for Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese) number Pickin’ the Guitar. Also represented are selections from Puccini, the wedding favorite

Tarantella Op. 18 and even Nino Rota’s The Godfather Waltz.

It's an enjoyable and enlightening trip with guides Grisman,

Gambetta and Aonzo. Just like the saying goes, you do learn something new

every day. The nicest part about this musical journey is it doesn't exclude

anyone. Above all, it's a lesson in music's past to help us enjoy the sounds

for the present and future.

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