Finally to be released the debut album by Mario Biondi, “Handful of Soul”. You will be surprised by this singer’s deep and warm voice. It recalls the great interpreters of soul and rhythm’n’blues music. Many will think of a black singer. Whereas Mario and Sicilian from Catania. Certainly, he’s capable of expressing his Soul when singing.
“Handful of Soul” is an album ranging between Jazz and Soul. The result is in this very enticing music release, whose sound swings from smooth vocal melodies to rhythmic tracks to dance to. Assembling a repertoire in accordance with his voice prove not to be an easy task. The aim was to find pieces that did not change the nature of his voice, which could highlight the deepness of his tone, yet in the same time would still be able to represent the artistic direction and the music lead followed by Schema records. The love for Rhythm & Blues and Soul, the styles of music mostly appreciated by Mario, took him to listen to a certain music repertoire, in particular some of the most representative related artists (Earth Wind & Fire, Donny Hattaway. Billy Paul, Luther Vandross, Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, Eryka Badu, Will Dowing…).
When the producer and Mario decided together the repertoire to be performed, Mario doubted he might be able to reproduce stylistically songs of the classic American repertoire such as “Slow Hot Wind” and “On A Clear Day”, or even “A Handful of Soul”. The result instead can be stunning to most. In this album, not only he delivers a very convincing interpretation but his voice adds a different colour to the music in “Slow Hot Wind” as well as in “A handful of Soul”. The feel-good sensation spread in “On A Clear Day(..)” is certainly enhanced by the deep husky voice of the interpreter. Mario himself remained pleasantly astonished by his own familiarity with those tunes. The inspiration he got from singing them moved himself, along with the other co-authors, to lay down the track “Gig”, clearly of American derivation, Cole Porter style. Whilst “No Mercy for Me” reveals Mario’s true soul of a crooner, “This Is What You Are” went on air in U.K. on heavy rotation in Norman Jay’s program Giant 45 for BBC London. Whereas in Italy was programmed by RMC and later became the music to the network’s corporate TV commercial. Another unreleased track is “Never Die”, wrote by Marco Bianchi and produced on the blueprint of “This is What You Are”, yet a fine piece of vocal jazz with fascinating harmonies and captivating solos. Tributes to rock-blues, soul-blues and rhythm-blues follow respectively in the shape of “I Can’t Keep from Crying Sometime” by Al Kooper, a ¾ on the trail of Deirdre Wilson Tabac where Mario’s soulful passionate signing shines throughout the song; “I’m Her Daddy” originally by the one and only Bill Withers and “No Trouble on The Mountain” by L.C Cook, another marvelous tune convincingly covered by Mario’s unique voice. Quite interesting is the version he sang of “A Child Runs Free” a modern Bossa in perfect Schema style, just like the samba “Rio De Janeiro Blue”.
When the producer offered Fabrizio Bosso to arrange and perform the pieces in this album, he accepted enthusiastically. He suggested to involve his band and to leave the arrangements of the tracks to Luca Mannutza and Pietro Ciancaglini. High Five front-line is comprised of Fabrizio Bosso on trumpet, Daniele Scannapieco on tenor sax and Luca Mannutza, Pietro Ciancaglini and Lorenzo Tucci, respectively on piano, double bass and drums, forming a solid rhythm section, strong and with an excellent interplay, capable of creating articulate patterns along with refined accompaniments where the two solo players can best express their flamboyant skills. High Five have released only two albums, yet they already met encountered a big success in the most important jazz festivals like, Paris Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz, Brianza Open Jazz, Clusone Jazz Festival and Teano Jazz. Also the singles musicians career proves their artistic relevance: Fabrizio Bosso deftly sways from pop to collaborations with artists like Phil Woods, Enrico Pieranunzi and Franco D’Andrea; Daniele Scannapieco, coming from a classical background, collaborated with jazz musicians of notorious international fame, amongst whom Maria Pia De Vito, Stefano Di Battista, Giovanni Tommaso, Tony Scott and Roberto Gatto; Luca Mannutza boasts collaborations with artists like Paolo Fresu, Emanuele Cisi, Maurizio Giammarco, Bebo Ferra and Steve Grossman; Lorenzo Tucci instead, shared the stage with artists the likes of Giovanni Tommaso, Maurizio Giammarco, Stefano Di Battista, Dado Moroni, Flavio Boltro, Rosario Giuliani e Piero Umiliani; although Pietro Ciancaglini is the youngest among the High Five, he can boast relevant artistic collaborations: from Nicola Stilo, to Kenny Wheeler, from Lee Konitz to Rita Marcotulli, from Amedeo Tommasi to Claudio Roditi. Together or individually they gave birth to some exciting performances, both live as well as in studio, for artists such as Schema Sextet and Nicola Conte. And now, Mario Biondi. High Five are able to play Jazz in a way that is instinctive; they perfectly adjusted to this production in a natural way, making this album a very pleasant listening.