Back in 2021, we bore witness to the reissue, by Dialogo, of the Rome based ensemble Spirale’s lone 1974 self-titled LP, a towering obscurity of 1970s Italian jazz. Made of up Gaetano Delfini (wind instruments, vocals, percussion), Giancarlo Maurino (saxophone, flute, percussion), Corrado Nofri (piano, marimba, mbira, siren, Jew’s harp), Giuseppe Caporello (contrabass, guitar, percussion) and Giampaolo Ascolese (drums), the band ranks among the most sinfully neglected outfits of its moment, 1970s Italian jazz, and left us desperate for more. What few knew, is that roughly the same band, with a considerably expanded line up, reformed under the name of Folk Magic Band and produced one more album called Jazz Al Folkstudio in 1976 for the little known, but stellar Folkstudio label in 1976.
A fairly monumental band for the moment, comprising eighteen members of a vast range of acoustic instruments, Folk Magic Band sprang from the the legendary alternative environment of the Folk Studio in Rome, drawing on pan-ethnic motifs of Don Cherry and his Organic Music Society, the spiritual jazz of Pharoah Sanders, and the orchestrations of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and infused them with a similar internationalist spirit that marked a great deal of Italian music from the 1970s and 80s - Aktuala, Futuro Antico, etc. - incorporating textures and melodic elements from numerous traditions from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Only a handful of documents are available from their short run, a life recording, a single television appearance, and the LP ‘Jazz Al Folkstudio’. Even from what little was have, it doesn’t take long to grasp how remarkable and singular they were.
Jazz Al Folkstudio belongs to an era in jazz, following John Coltrane’s Ascension and the subsequent efforts of bands like the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, Sun Ra’s Arkestra, the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, and Philip Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble, that witnessed a return to larger ensembles, following the dominance of trios, quartets, and quintets that had dominated to be-bop and post-bop eras. Like the aforementioned, Folk Magic Band favoured a thicker and weightier sound, and complex tonal arrangements, nodding toward the work of Charles Mingus, that drew tonal complexity from the interplay of multiple instruments in conversation, rather the broadening of the harmonic palette on the part of individual players.
Comprising five remarkable compositions penned by varying band members, Jazz Al Folkstudio is driving forced of full throttle, joyous spiritual jazz, chugging its way across the album’s two side. Drawing unexpected links between the Italian scene and American counterparts like Organic Music Society and Sun Ra’s Arkestra, with a dash Archie Shepp thrown in for good measure, the band binds the exuberance of bygone dance bands of the 30s and 40s to the outreaches of the avant-garde, bringing both to absolutely thrilling and infectious creative heights.
Gathering a singular, polychromic universe, built upon masterful musicianship and the free, democratic spirit of 60s and 70s counterculture that looking outward toward diverse, far-flung cultures for points of inspiration, Folk Magic Band’s ‘Jazz Al Folkstudio’ is nothing short of a revolution that takes huge steps toward redrafting the history of European jazz in a single go. This first-time vinyl reissue, immaculately reproducing the 1976 edition, joins Black Sweat’s incredible catalog and is impossible to recommend enough. It’s one of those rare records that refuses to leave the turntable after the first needle drop.