The concept of vocal orchestra started in classicalist venues, in fact pretty much portaled through under religionist codification with Pope Gregory I in the now fondly beatified Gregorian chant. Since that spectacular origin, the form has undergone myriad shifts in structure but never again was as arrestingly innovated upon until about the time of the Swingle Singers, who era-wise followed on the heels of street doo-wop, and then up into Bobby McFerrin, where the mode sort of Marxistically, ironically because of technology, became the one-man vocal orchestra. Though experimented with variously, sometimes including the hilarious spoofery of PDQ Bach (Peter Schickele), rarely has the form become anyone's raison d' être save in partial subsummation in The Manhattan Transfer, The Nylons, The Flying Pickets, Take 6, and other practitioners. Boris Salvodelli has decided to take up the baton of late and in Biocosmopolitan has knit together everything, soul and R&B included, for an interesting one-man anthology of laryngeal pyrotechnics.
I'm not sure the lyrics are important—in any case, they're frequently in another language, presumably Italian, but even when in English are sometimes uninterpreble—because it's the texturing and synthetic instrumentation that capture the ear and imagination. The entire CD is Salvodelli singing (and playing piano on "Biocosmo") with Paolo Fresu touting trumpet and fluegelhorn on two cuts and Jimmy Haslip supplying a murderously nimble bass on one. Is Difficult to Fly without Whisky is a soporific floater, a dreamy lullaby nocturne, while many tracks move and groove with an NYC atmosphere and harmonic franticity.
Salvodelli's take on Hendrix's Crosstown Traffic is amusing, dynamic, and highly interpretational all at once, blending soul, funk, Carnatic rikki-tikki-tavi beat aping, and psychedelic phasing with a Who/punk, snotty, in-your-face mainline, ALL of it purely vocal. The closing bonus cut, an English version of Biocosmo, gets the stripped-down treatment, even more sparse than the non-English track, both versions standing out in sharp relief against the rest of the album. The song is something of a plaintive but less grandiose Ricardo Cocciante take and palpable proof that Salvoldelliu can cut the mustard within and without all the layering and studio tech.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles