Friday, August 31, 2007

Ben Harper - Lifeline

I have seen a very interesting clip on Ben Harper. During a live show he was asking to the audience about how they have known his music. On TV? No one. On the radio? No one. Thanks to the advice of a friend? An explosion! Anyone has known him thanks to the word of mouth. Such a primitive marketing tool!

I had the same experience. Magical. Half drunk, late at night. During a party with many friends I have suddenly heard the rhythm of a bongo coming out from the stereo. Then a fine acoustic guitar riff. And finally his voice. He put a spell on me. It was Ben Harper's one. He was singing "Burn One Down". I was hypnotized. Since then I have started to hear all of his music. Up to his simply wonderful cover of "Strawberry Fields". Stunning.

Due to the primitive marketing tool of the word of mouth I have started to be a genuine Harperoholic! Anytime a new release is announced I start to fell a strong interior conflict. On one side the happiness related to the good news of some more music from Ben Harper. On the other side the fear. Ben is not from Mars. Sooner or later he will fail. His artistic inspiration must disappear.

Anytime he releases a new album Ben Harper declares that it is his best one. The most complete. Actually I have never been disappointed by him. Anytime the fear for the flop is strongly kicked out by the beautyfulness of his music and by the very deep lyrics. It's incredible but time after time Ben Harper looks like a perfect guy who never fails. For sure, some albums are better than others. But anyone is surprising. Just one example: "There will be a light". Very far from the previous works. Ben Harper was able to renew his music without betray his soul. He was able to bring the Blind Boys of Alabama back to music. He made a real masterpiece.

It's clear enough that when I heard about the new album from Ben Harper I have started to feel a little anxious state of mind. I have to be honest. Truly. This time I had a strong feeling about a possible failure. After a double album arisen from the angry generated by Katrina hurricane. A shout in favor of all the (black) homeless not considered by the administration. After months of tour all around the world. After a week of work in Paris relegated in a studio with his innocent criminals he has created another masterpiece.

It's a black music album. Soul. It sounds like a record from the '70s. But it also sounds modern. Since from the very first listening I had the proof that Ben was right once again. It's not important to write about each of the 11 tracks. It's enough one that could represent the whole album: "Put it on". Like the Marley tune. But inspired from the golden era of Black Music. Amazing. Makes your heart beat faster. It makes you scream while singing following its rhythm with the body.

Maybe sometimes Ben Harper will record a bad album. I don’t know. For sure today he is more from Mars than from Planet Earth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Roberto Totti - Made in Italy

Made in Italy, it's something really important. In fashion Made in Italy does add some value to any product. Also to the ones not yet made in Italy; maybe designed in Italy or assembled in Italy. Talking about engines and speed Made in Italy is strictly related to Ferrari. But not only. Many knows that a small region of Italy, Emilia Romagna, is crowded by great craftsmen working hard on their impossible ideas to reach higher targets. About new engines. About new bikes. About races. About the art of customizing.

Made in Italy is also the title of a special book that will be released next Christmas. It's a really important book. A photo book. For those who love bikes. But not only. Really important for those who love art. Two wheels art. The book is a collection of pictures that witnesses the last 30 years of the work of one of the greatest bike customizer ever. The name's Totti. Roberto Totti. And he was Made i Italy too. He is a real genius born some decades ago around Bologna, that magic part of Italy fully devoted to engines, bikes and cars. A part of Italy well populated by craftsmen who can shape steel & iron giving a tangible consistency to their mad ideas.

Roberto Totti is a one & only kind of man. He is shy. It's not so easy to reach him. It's not easy at all to have a bike built by himself. It's not a problem of money. You need more. Much more. It's only a matter of passion. You must be really passionate about bikes if you want him to work on your project. Doesn't matter what kind of project. The only way to have a special bike by Totti is to have a lot of passion. He has built specials worth more than 100.000 EUR (take a look at the almost impossible Pregnant Duck). But he has worked with much more low budget too (up to 1.000 EUR).

If you want to have a bite of his art just take a look at his own web site. If you want some more be sure to have a copy of his limited edition book. You will have the chance to see some of his masterpieces. If you want to know more about his passion take a look at his DVD about the Salt Lake Bonneville experience. But this is another story...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Giovanni Allevi and Stefano Bollani

In my opinion Jimi Hendrix has been one of the greatest musical genius ever. His feeling is absolutely unique. Nobody has ever been steps ahead like him. Nowadays a lot of guitar heros could play hundreds of notes per second. But without sentiment. Pure technical power. So boring! Even when I think about instrumental albums, like a solo piano album, I just pair it with this bad feeling. Boring. Boring. Boring!

As sometimes happens then arrives something that makes me change my mind. Probably something strange. Unique. I don't know. I just know that this time the thing that made me change my mind is related to a couple of Italian artists (piano players). The names are Stefano Bollani and Giovanni Allevi.

The first time I have seen Stefano Bollani was on an MTV's broadcast. He was playing live some solo tunes. Brilliant, no doubt. But then he did an experiment. He has asked to the audience to write on a piece of paper a tune he should play. No limits at all to the requests. 5 or 6 have been chosen randomly: Smoke on the water, like a virgin, Summertime and others. Very hard job for Stefano. But just after a few seconds he has played a great medley of all this songs. Absolutely incredible. Unbelievable. Ok. Quite easy. It was a TV show. For sure everything has been carefully prepared before. Or not?

Just to have some kind of proof I have been at his live show some days after. I was really curious. Incredible. At the end of the show he did the same experiment. The audience was shouting the name of the songs for the encore. He wrote more or less 10 titles. And after a few seconds he started a wonderful medley. I was there and I can witness this extraordinary experience. But what has really impressed me is the wild and creative attitude he has playing the piano. And the audience too has impressed me much. Complete silence during the performance. Explosion of noise, claps and whatever just after the last note of each tune! Amazing.

As a consequence of this nice experience I felt ready for testing another Italian piano player. Giovanni Allevi. He is a very shy guy with a great sensibility. His last album (piano solo!!!), Joy, put a spell on me! Since from the very first listening I had a positive feeling with it. I have found myself listening the whole CD for 3 or 4 times in a row. After that I did feel a little bit strange. Confused. Never in my life I thought possible for me to like so much instrumental music. And without any guitar too! But the truth is that Giovanni Allevi is simply magic. Any of his note could transfer real emotions.

An hazardous comparison could be between Giovanni Allevi and Jimi Hendrix. More than all in a couple of tunes. The first one, Downtown, reminds me the experiment made by Jimi Hendrix to reproduce the noise of the traffic with his own guitar. The second one, Jazzmatic, is a crescendo where rhythm and the dynamic of the player are simply unbelievable. And powerful. As only Jimi's guitar was.

Sometimes is really nice to be wrong and change mind. Thank you Giovanni. Thank you Stefano.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Valentino Rossi has some problem with his taxes! Who cares???

Maybe Elisabetta Canalis has nothing to do with it. The same for all the flirts that have been recently published on tabloids. Probably the truth about Valentino Rossi's last bad performances it's another. It looks that he has been fined for nearly 112.000.000 EUR by the Italian fiscal authority. Congratulations! Who can deeply concentrate on his job with such a big amount of money to pay? Even for 1/1000 of it! Not me. Nor Valentino, probably.

Of course I can't tell if it's true or not his fiscal problem. But the real truth is that I don't care at all about it. It's quite easy to understand that the Champion has moved from Tavullia to London for fiscal purposes. But again I don't care about it. He is free to do what he likes. What are care about are just results. Race results. And emotions. The ones he gives me anytime he races. And for sure he will gave a lot them to me in the future.

I don't understand the ones that feels betrayed. I don't feel like that. Valentino Rossi is a real champion. And he will be forever. He is really nice. He is a winner. And he will always be it forever. Taxes, paid or not, have nothing to do with it. It's just stupid that the detectives have lost three years trying to find the clues of his guiltiness. In three years they could probably have discovered thousands of other crimes. But it's more easy to have this spectacular success. Many invidious guys will be really happy. Not me. I don't care if Valentino was right or wrong with his fiscal matters. Italy should dedicate him a great monument for what he has done and for the glory he has brought to our country.

Anyway I'm sure that Valentino knows how to answer. If he is going to win next race probably he will do the honour lap dressed like a prisoner. He is condemned to win (yes to pay the fine...ridiculous, simply ridiculous).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Madrid, Madrid, Madrid !!!

It’s quite normal to think about Barcelona as a lively city. And it's true. No doubt about it. It's also normal to think about Madrid as a less funny place. Well, this was at least my impression. And it's false. The truth is that Madrid is a never sleeping city !!! And, still against the idea of mine and many others, it's very nice and packed with a lot of amazing spots.

One of the best secrets ever to deeply live a place is to visit it with a local. Also for a non tourist journeyman it's almost impossible not to be caught in the net of some tourist-buster (fake local restaurant, bars or night venues...). Unfortunately is not possible to have a local friend in every place. Sometimes we must do everything on ourselves trying to skip all the tourist-buster.

Fortunately I have a lot of friends all around Europe & the World. And one of my best friends has lived in Madrid for more than four years: she is a crazy Mexican with Italian blood in their veins and in Spain she has found the perfect mix of USA & Europe. And a couple of hundreds of friends too. What else can ask for a short trip to Madrid ?

My expectations have been fully satisfied. Madrid is really wonderful. The locals are fantastic. I have felt strange and mixed emotions during the trip. The place could be modern and old at the same time. After a long walk in the commercial district around Puerta del Sol I have found myself having lunch (at 4 o'clock p.m., very normal here in Madrid) in a old restaurant where the time seems to have stopped 50 years ago!

Probably its useless to give a list of the best places to see. Any kind of travel book (Lonely Planet it's always the best) can provide all the details. Much more better than me. But for sure I can give some advice to avoid the "tourists route". To sleep a good place is the Room Mate Mario Hotel. There are many belonging to the Room Mate brand in Madrid. I have choose the Mario one, very close to the Opera. Great position. Sophisticated with a nice touch of design. Very nice boutique hotel at affordable prices (135 EUR for the wide junior suite). Very close to the Hotel it's possible to find a great Mexican restaurant. The name is Entre Suspiro Y Suspiro. It's a real Mexican restaurant, not a Tex-Mex. Food is great but a little expensive (40/50 EUR each). The place is really nice, elegant but not overcrowded.

During the night Madrid never sleeps. It's impossible not to find something to do. A wonderful idea is to have a couple of drink on the roof garden of the MeliĆ  Hotel situated in Plaza Santa Ana. This Hotel used to be the place where the toreros spent the days and nights prior to the "Corrida". Now it has been completely refurbished. It's a very chic hotel and on the roof top you can find a bar and have the best glance of the city at night. Very exclusive. It's worth a visit for a couple of drink. To continue the party it's a must to move in La Latina, a part of the city crowded by locals drinking and having fun in one of the thousands bar spread all over the area.

Late night it's absolutely necessary a stop at Cock bar. A very famous place where many famous writers, artists and filmmakers meet all together for a drink and a chat. Very peculiar. Surrounded by clouds of smoke (yes, in Madrid is still possible to smoke in public areas) is possible to have a drink in this fashionable and elegant bar and talk about the Movida with the ones who started it. I had the chance to drink a very good Mojito while my friend (at 4 o'clock a.m.) was talking with a smiling Pedro Almodovar. For the one really full of energy I suggest a visit at Toni 2 (Toni Dos). Possibly after 4 o'clock in the morning. It's an unbelievable place. Ladies and Gents from 30 to 80 years old meet together in this bar and sing all night long with the help of a piano player and tons of cigarettes and alcohol. Very strange but absolutely a piece of everyday life in Madrid.

Last but not least it'n wise to have a lunch (from 3 to 5 p.m., not before) at a marvelous Taberna (old restaurant). Don Paco. It's in Caballero de Gracia, near Plaza de Cibeles. It's a musuem of the Corrida and with a few money you can have incredible food & drinks. It's almost impossible to find a tourist here. It's a real Spanish restaurant. With great feelings. It smells Spain in every corner. Don't loose it!

Madrid is much more than one could imagine. Having the chance to visit it (at least in part) with the eyes of a local makes it even much better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gigi Cifarelli's talking guitar

Talking about music is not so easy. There are many chances to use stereotypes. Brazilian has the rhythm in their blood! Any Brazilian? Cubans dance like gods! Any Cuban? Could it be possible? Only (Afro)Americans can play the Blues! Yeah, the Blues. But also Jazz music. It's chilling to think about a Norwegian playing Jazz music. But in the cold Scandinavia is possible to find some of the finest modern Jazz players.

And what about Italians? Think about Italy means to think about Pizza & Mandolino? Are we so sure? I'm not! Probably stereotypes, like any legend, have some truth inside. I'm quite sure that it's something related to attitude. Capacity. For sure a Jamaican is much more confident with Reggae music than with winter sports. But if I'm not wrong there was a Jamaican team riding a bobsled at the Winter Olympics! Probably an Italian is more confident with soccer playing (or at least talking) than playing Jazz music. But there are many examples of great Italian Jazzman & Bluesman. Could be crazy. Could sound impossible. I don't know. What I know is the existence of the proof.

And the proof has a name. The name is Cifarelli. Gigi Cifarelli. He is really incredible. In the Milan city area he is one of the most famous and appreciated musicians. But ha has lot of fans all over Italy and Europe. Probably his name is known also in the USA. For sure in USA he has lot of friends. Mike Stern is one of them. Many times they shared the same stage for a gig. Also a real Jazz Master like the (sadly) gone Tony Scott was a fan of Gigi. He has played with many stars. It's enough to take a look at the gallery of his own web site to check it.

Gigi has an incredible feeling with music. He doesn't play the guitar. He makes the guitar talk to the audience. The instrument is the media to drive all the emotions. And Gigi drives many emotions to the audience. He has incredible technical skills. But really seldom he uses it. He prefers to use the heart, to have fun and to provide fun to the others. He is for sure one of the greatest Jazz players in Italy. And not only. He plays the Blues like few others can. But the crazy thing is that music to him is not a job. He whisper to his friends that his real job is to ride the bicycle. For real. He wins many competition every year. Guitar is just an hobby. It's a way to lower everyday stress. It's just fun. Not a job.

On 6th July he has played in Nice with one of the biggest American guitar players: Mr Al Di Meola. Yes, typical American name...just look at the cover photos of Friday Night In San Francisco! Despite of its Pizza & Mandolino attitude Gigi has played great Blues & Jazz. Also Mr Di Meola has been shocked by him. Probably Gigi will receive some proposal for a tour abroad (maybe in the USA) but I'm not sure he will accept. How can he left his bike for such a long time???