Folk Club Ethnosuoni ES 5339
'Tilion' is the nickname of Attilio Rocca, and this CD is 'to honour this long-time interpreter of traditional music, whose artistic continuity and coherence intertwine naturally with his intellectual honesty and renowned wisdom' as the liner notes tell us. If this sounds like the introduction to a memorial album, I'm pleased to tell you it's nothing of the sort, and that Tilion plays his fisamonica (piano accordion) on every track.
If the name Tilion sounds vaguely familiar to you, you may have read my reviews of two cassettes by 'Bani e Tilion' or that of a CD by 'I Müsetta' in what was then Folk Roots magazine. So, let's have a bit of history. Some dozen years ago I was taken by Enzo Conti (of I Tre Martelli) to the 'summer home' of Pier Carlo Cardinali, high in the mountains of the quattro province, to meet 'some rather special musicians'. The quattro province is a mountainous area situated where the four northern Italian provinces of Piemont, Liguria, Lombardy and Emillia Romagna join. The local culture is very interesting in that it has incorporated disparate elements of Piemontese, Ligurian, Emilliana and Lombard tradition into a cohesive whole. The dance music was mostly based around the piffero, müsa and accordion combination. I say 'was' because, until the revival of the 1970s, the piffero was almost extinct - not just here, but in the whole of northern Italy.
One man kept it alive, built the instruments and passed them and the basic tune repertoire on to the young revivalists who were beginning to show an interest in the traditional music of their area. That man was Ettore 'Bani' Losini - leader and piffero player with I Müsetta. Without Bani, bands like Ciapa Rusa and Tre Martelli would certainly have sounded very different. Furthermore, Bani's musical partner was Attilio 'Tilion' Rocca, a musician from the previous generation, from whom much of the older quattro province repertoire had come. When 'Bani e Tilion' where joined, in 1988, by Pier Carlo Cardinali on müsa, piva (two kinds of bagpipe) and guitar, the group I Müsetta came into being, and offered the authentic local instrumental combination. These were the 'rather special musicians' I was taken to meet. As well as a tremendous session, the simple meal of chilli pasta and local wine, taken outside whilst watching a spectacular sunset, was quite unforgettable.
I Müsetta made two CDs; the first, Mond e Pais e Mond (1994), was number ES 001 on the Ethnosuoni label; the second, La vulp la va 'n tla vigna (Ethnosuoni ES 5315) appeared in late-2002. I loved the first one, but was rather disappointed by the second (see review).
This current CD might be considered to be their third - or, at least, the second two-thirds of it might, as it is essentially the music of I Müsetta, plus a couple of guest musicians. One of these is Maurizio Martinotti (of La Ciapa Rusa, now of Folk Club Ethnosuoni) who was also there that summer evening in the mountains, and is playing as well as ever here; the other is guitarist Gigi Lanzoni, one or two of whose contributions I would have been glad to do without.
The first third of this CD, whilst still having some contributions from Bani and Pier Carlo, features mainly Tilion playing with Stefano Valla - who is considered by many to be the greatest of the younger generation of piffero players. Frankly, I can find very little to choose between the two parts - Stefano is certainly a terrific player, but then, the band, with decades of playing together behind them, have a great charm. I like it all, very much indeed. Here's a clip of I Müsetta, with Pier Carlo on piva, playing a mazurca.
Tilion is a fine player, and the fact that he's probably now in his early-eighties seems to have had no effect whatever upon his abilities. Not only does he have the old repertoire and style fully intact, but he also displays a glorious musical imagination - no, that doesn't do it justice - humour. This man can make you laugh with his playing! This was very evident during the session in the mountains but, obviously I suppose, less so on the recordings. Indeed, I was sorry to note that it was almost absent on the last CD - but here it's back again. To show you what I mean, here's a clip from an unnamed waltz from Stefano, with one of Tilion's little touches on the second time through.
This is a very good and enjoyable record, and is available through the website at: www.folkclubethnosuoni.com Click on the 'English Version' link. Since Ethnosuoni linked up with the Turinese 'Folk Club' organisation there has been a good deal more of the 'folk club' element and far too little of the 'ethnosuoni' for my taste, so it's good to see this example of real, authentic traditional music to offset the balance.
Rod Stradling - 9.8.04