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Sacred Ground by the International Troubadours

A strange mix—the electric guitar rides from smooth jazz to Hendrix while virtuoso bass and percussion are active, sympathetic supporters, whether the vibe is Congo-primitive, New Age, mainstream jazz or rock. The Italian-based International Troubadours take Bill Frissel's eclectic lead, but what he puts into separate focused albums they here compress into one bold attempt to update the music of the original troubadours and their mystic, pagan predecessors.

It might have worked if they hadn't gone totally over the top with vocalise on almost all unlucky 13 tracks. The amateurish imitation of mystical chant is more likely to produce laughter than the deep thought that precedes Enlightment. Vocal nonsense reaches its height on "Salutati" as near screams try to match an amped-up wailing rock guitar, in imitation of the ecstatic wails of a pagan worshipper. Few listeners will become believers in either the object of devotion or this band.

Too bad because, aside from inane vocalizations, there's some effective trio playing; the group is comfortable with rock and jazz. "Col di Lana" includes both and is the best of these all-original tunes. After a mysteriously moody opening, guitarist Alberto N. A. Turra picks out a Spanish-tinged melody and then does most of the solo heavy-lifting as Spanish morphs into gently swinging jazz. Tension increases and his tone becomes more aggressive until it reaches a rock fuzz-guitar climax. Bass and percussion provide right-on support through the progression of vibes here, and throughout the session.

Longer tracks alternate with brief entr'actes, primarily for percussion from bass drum to triangle. These pieces, all under two minutes, are accented with a few light electronic touches and, thankfully, even fewer vocal agonies.

The idea may have been a good one, but the execution isn't. Recommended only if your karaoke machine can delete the voices. (Note: the CD comes in at less than a skimpy 50-minutes, but that's not always a bad thing.)

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: International Troubadours
  • CD Title: Sacred Ground
  • Genre: Acid Jazz
  • Year Released: 2011
  • Record Label: International Troubadours
  • Tracks: Calli, Una danza, Cuore di bue, Song for G., Balcano, Con i piedi per terra, Salutati, Shakuhachi, Hijacking, Beatrix, Goloritzé, Col di lana, Spostamenti d'aria, Calli (alternate take)
  • Musicians: Alberto N. A. Turra (guitar, Japanese flute, voice), Davide Tedesco (bass, voice), Alberto Pederneschi (percussion)
  • Rating: One Star
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