Roberto Tombesi

in 'sta via (on this road)
Traditional Music from the Dolomites to the Lagoon of Venice

Culturale Atelier Calicanto CAL / 017

1. Valsivier di Goro / Scotis di Casini / Menacò / Polca a 126;  2. Mazurca di Cencenighe / Mazurca minore;  3. Polesana / Pairis di Lamon;  4. Tarantella agordina;  5. Antica marcia gli sposi / Mazurca il voto;  6. Gajarda;  7. Do passi / Sette passi;  8. Pive / Valzer n° 39;  9. Scotis "Gran vechia";  10. Bassanello;  11. Vilote lagunari;  12. Quadriglia di Italo / Quadriglia n° 13;  13. Pia / Monferrina n° 20 / Manfrina di Carfon / Manfrina dei Coce;  14. Veneziana / Furlana di Adria / Giga ferrarese;  15. Subioto / Balletti n° 1 / Balletti n° 2 / Ratapatà.  Duration: 67 minutes.
Roberto Tombesi's introduction to the booklet notes runs: 'All the tunes of this CD are traditional and come from the research started in the early '80s with [my] friend Claudio Paluan and then developed in the fundamental collaboration with Guglielmo Pinna and Marina Dalla Valle to arrive at the recent one which saw the involvement also of Francesco Ganassin and my son Alessandro who I particularly thank for their support in this project.'

This may be a rather difficult CD for me to review, because I was good friends with Roberto's group, Calicanto, back in the '80s, and because I've added a number of their tunes to my own repertoire over the years.  Why should that make it difficult to review?  Well, because I'm used to the way they played them back then and, more than 30 years later, I'm still trying to get used to the way Roberto's playing them now.  That's not to say that I dislike this 21st century approach - just that some of these old friends appear in rather different guises on this new CD.

We start with a suite of dances from the collecting work done when I knew the band, begining with Roberto almost solo, playing a lovely waltz in the clear and beautiful style I remember so well.  The final couple of bars speed up a bit to lead into the scotis (schottische) with downward glissando as the rest of the band tip in - this is still pretty much as the band used to play; with a slightly jazzy edge.  Menacò, a polka, is played rather too fast for my taste but, happily slows down a bit before the change to the final Polka a 126, with an even more jazzy approach and plenty of the theatricality that Calicanto took up later.

The two mazurcas on track 2 are very well done - though the snare drum and strict-tempo arrangement do tend to make them sound a bit military!  Track 3 is something of a surprise to me - Polesana is a great tune, but I was very surprised to find it as a song here, albeit wonderfully sung in harmony by Roberto and Claudia Ferronato, before changing into the dance tune that I've nicked for myself.  Again we have speed-up in tempo after the first iteration - I don't find these changes in tempo very comfortable listening - before the change to Pairis di Lamon, another tune I remember from the 'old days' - here with some very jazzy improvation in places.

Track 4 is Tarantella agordina, and its title may confuse some readers because it's not the frantic tarantella of the deep south, but the far nicer (to my ears) and more sedate version they play in some parts of the north.  Track 5 is a lovely processional march followed by an equally lovely mazurca - gorgeous!  Track 6 is a bit of an oddity; it's titled Gajarda, which is described as: 'probably one of the most ancient dances ... Calicanto has realised two different versions ...' and I had presumed that what we get here are these two different versions.  However, the first is a fairly standard AABB 32 bar polka, while the second is a three-part tune ABCCDD.  What's more, the A and the B strains are in 7/8 time!  How would one do the same dance to two such different tunes, I wondered.  That said, the second tune is a real cracker - and one I shamelessly pinched for my own purposes from one of their early LPs, where it was simply titled Polka Volta (polka time).

Having contacted Roberto Tombesi about this, I now know that: 'Antonio Cornoldi, who collected it in the '50s says that it consists of two parts: the first one called spasso and the second one called balletto, also known as La Volta.  He writes that the first part might have been an ancient court dance, maybe from the Renaissance, while the second might have been added between 1700 and 1800, thanks to a contamination with more popular environments.  Anyway, the Gajarda is still danced by the new generations as taught by Cornoldi in two united parts: spasso and balletto.'  So, another little puzzle cleared up.

I don't think that any further track-by-track examination is necessary, but a few highlights should be mentioned.  Track 9, Scotis "Gran vechia", is one of those elaborate semi-ragtime tunes that Flowers used to delight us with, back in the day - and it's no surprise that it came from the repertoire of a cornet player.  It also serves to remind us that the schottische was played in very different ways all over the world!

Having played this CD a number of times now I'm pleased to say that I think I've got used to the 21st century version of Roberto Tombesi now - and enjoy it hugely.  Not only that, but it has been a real joy to hear again so many of those lovely tunes I dimly remember from way back then.  By the way, the CD's title, in 'sta via means 'on this road' and come from the first line of the song Polesana.  Here it refers to Roberto's artistic journey, his personal one; the words 'on this road' underline his 35-year-old choice to dedicate himself to the music of his roots and of his land, without changing course.

A final, tiny, gripe.  This CD is presented as if it were a solo effort by Roberto and, although the ten other musicians playing are meticulously noted for each track, their names or photos don't appear anywhere else where you might expect them.  And, since I don't think Roberto appears completely solo on any track of the disc, I feel this is a little ingenuous.

Rod Stradling - 3.7.16

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