Nicola Conte presents Stefania Dipierro Natural
(Far Out Recordings FARO 188CD. CD Review by Peter Jones)
As the rain sloshes down and leaves have yet to appear on the trees, now is as good a time as any to bask in the sounds of Summer. Fortunately for us, Nicola Conte never fails to provide the soundtrack to that elusive season, whatever the time of year. And here he is again, with a Brazilian-inflected collection of tunes, this time featuring the breathy voice of Stefania Dipierro.
Conte has an unerring gift for choosing the right singer: he’s previously collaborated with the likes of Kimberley Sanders, José James and more recently Zara McFarlane. And he and Dipierro have form, having worked together on the Jet Sounds album back in 2000. Here, as previously, she is in complete command of the material, and possesses one of those gorgeous voices that seem to be whispering in your ear.
Conte and Dipierro are backed by an all-star studio crew, including Fabrizio Bosso on trumpet, Gaetano Partipilo on alto, Pietro Lussu and Mirko Signorile on keys, Luca Alemanno on bass, and a host of drummers and percussionists.
Stand-out tracks include Within You And I (I’m sure we can overlook the grammar) - a typically languid, minimalist piece that shimmers in the heat, with a chiming guitar and gentle but insistent bass riff. I would also single out some other masterful exercise in restraint: Jobim’s Caminhos Cruzados, Toquinho and Ben’s Que Maravilha, and Caetano Veloso’s incantatory Joia, the latter following the original in being accompanied only by percussion and single-note guitar drone. These tracks remind us of another of Conte’s great gifts: he is a superb producer who never overburdens the material with needlessly complex arrangements. The vibe is enough.
There’s not much else to say about a thoroughly enjoyable album that has no need to strive for effect but settles into a lush, feel-good groove and stays there.