Gino Foti has self-produced two releases here that draw from a wide palette of his early musical influences: classical, Mediterranean folk, Italian opera, jazz fusion, and progressive rock. Foti mixes the colors from these diverse musical genres to create a collection of fascinating experiments in what might be best called "world jazz fusion."
Just scan the track names and you get an immediate sign of the aural range on both of these releases. On Sphere of Influence Foti goes from "Marirangwe" (which means "dusk" in the Shona vernacular of Zimbabwe and Mozambique) to "Saudade" (Portuguese) to "Dancing On The Edge Of A Dream," a song title that would comfortably fit a pop tune. Orbis Terrarum shows a similar antagonism to easy classification; we have "Kujichagulia" (the second day of Kwanzaa), "Ultradian Rhythms" (a reference to biological cycles that are shorter than 24 hours), and "Panta Rhei" (taken from an ancient Greek maxim).
Both releases are filled entirely with original compositions by Foti and all rely heavily on the use of loops and samples of a panoply of exotic ethnic instruments far too numerous to list. These include many African, Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean, East Asian, Cuban, and Native American percussion instruments and a similar variety of stringed and wind instruments (especially various types of ethnic flutes). The result is like walking through a global bazaar with music from all over the world floating by and commingling in a wonderful salmagundi of sound.
Foti blends the loops and samples skillfully with his primary instruments: bass guitar (both fretted and fretless), MIDI bass guitar, and keyboards. Many tunes have a Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern tonal and rhythmic quality, but there is ample representation of other ethnic music: Latin (rhythmic patterns of bossa nova, flamenco, merengue, salsa and rumba), African, Asian, European classical, and even a dash of American rock and funk.
On Orbis Terrarum, highlights include "Kujichagulia" which opens with a nice fretless bass melody statement followed by improvisation over the driving groove of African talking and stick drums; the elegant rumba-based "Ultradian Rhythms;" "Wan-Wu" Parts I and II in which we experience the Yin and Yang contrast between life and death through contrasting tone and instrumentation; and "Panta Rhei" which is a showcase for Mediterranean lutes and other stringed instruments soloing over an Egyptian rhythmic bed.
From Sphere of Influence, notable tracks include "Amor Y Poder" (Love and Power) with its alternating languid and up-tempo sections and juxtaposition of traditional Middle-Eastern rhythms with fretless bass (including a section with a heavily processed effect added); "Degrees of Force," a frenetic piece featuring pianist Chris Rossi playing over a dramatic Spanish Phrygian harmonic platform and Latin percussion; "Within The Circles" which will transport you into a Thai village; "One Day As A Lion" offers a fascinating mix of 6/8 and 7/8 time with African percussion instruments, voices, flutes, Foti’s fretless bass, and even the sound of lions; "Ouroboros," which delightfully blends the Middle-Eastern sound of the doumbek (a goblet-shaped drum prominently used in belly-dance music) in a jazz-funk style with electric bass and guitar solos and riffs; and the lovely, simple "Tender Shadows" using only acoustic piano and classical guitar.Foti’s work on both releases is impressive in the range of rhythms and sounds from around the world that he blends into his compositions. Sphere of Influence is probably the better of the two collections, even though it is less consistent; its best tracks are the best of the combined 28 tracks between the two. But if you enjoy world music and jazz fusion, you are sure to find both Orbis Terrarum and Sphere of Influence worthy additions to your collection.