Semiramis — Frazz Live
(Black Widow BWR206, 2017, CD+DVD)
by Henry Schneider, Published 2018-07-11
In 1973, a one-and-done group of Italians in their mid-teens formed Semiramis and released Dedicato a Frazz, an amazingly complex and beautiful progressive album classic that no serious fan’s collection is complete without. The band centered around the nucleus of Maurizio Zarrillo (keyboards), and cousins Marcello Reddavide (bass) and Memmo Pulvano (drums). Pulvano had to leave the group because he was the only one with a full-time job, so they replaced him with Paolo Faenza. Semiramis had an intense string of live dates after the album release, but they broke up in 1974. Only their vocalist Michele Zarrillo, Maurizio’s younger brother, stayed active in music. Forty years later in 2013, narrator and acoustic guitarist Giampiero Artegiani and drummer Paolo Faenza announced a Semiramis reunion with original member Maurizio Zarrillo plus Vito Ardito (vocals), Rino Amato (keyboards and synths), Antonio Trapani (guitars), and Ivo MIleto (bass). Frazz Live, recorded live in Genova on April 22, 2017, is the last concert with Maurizio as he sadly passed away two months after the show. This live show on both CD and DVD documents Semiramis’ performance of their entire album Dedicato a Frazz, with additional Italian narrations by Giampiero introducing each track. Unfortunately, since I do not speak Italian, these narrations are lost on me. They also included two newer songs, one live and one in the studio, “Morire per Guarire” and “Mille Universi.” The performance is superb, showcasing Semiramis’ ageless symphonic / romantic Italian progressive rock. Ardito’s strong tenor breathes freshness into the music, with these aging musicians expertly navigating the intricate tempo and time signature changes, plus some guitar shredding. Back in the day, Semiramis were unique. But now, especially on the two new tracks, I detect some similarities to Lino Vairetti and Osanna. The CD by itself is a great way to experience the concert. The DVD provides the visual equivalent of being present, seeing raised cell phones recording the performance, but lacking the final track “Mille Universi.” Extra features include interviews with Diego Banchero (Il Segno del Comando); Gino Terribile, Giuseppe Terribile, and Franco Piccolini (Il Cerchio d’Oro), Mauro La Luce, Alberto Sgarlato (Flower Flesh), Giampero Artegiani, and Semiramis, unfortunately all in Italian without English subtitles. Putting that aside, Black Widow has done an otherwise outstanding job capturing and presenting this live performance.
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more