Composer / Drummer Filippo Bonaccorso Releases 'Enigmatica' on Got Groove Records


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Filippo Bonaccorso
“These compositions were born during a very long span of my life, long before I conceived of this project and this album,” says drummer, composer, and bandleader Filippo Bonaccorso of his recording debut. “Enigmatica is the characteristic of the human soul that is indefinite, often unsolved, not always clear.”

However, Enigmatica makes this very clear: Its six original tunes, rendered through an eleven-piece ensemble which Bonaccorso anchors as drummer, and ranging from an unexpected rhumba to a Middle Eastern market to an existential “Twist,” are the first recordings of a remarkably accomplished musician AND composer.

Filippo Bonaccorso grew up in Messina, Italy, and gradually moved from teaching himself to formal lessons on piano and drums. He was drummer for the Messina Jazz Orchestra, directed by Giovanni Renzo, and for the Jazz Workshop directed by Salvatore Bonafede and featuring Kenny Wheeler. Bonaccorso co-founded, and coordinates with pianist Luciano Troja, the Pannonica Jazz Workshop (in Messina) for the study and development of jazz and experimental music and since 2016 has performed with the Filarmonica Laudamo Creative Orchestra. “After several years of practicing and teaching myself drums, of playing as practice, I started feeling the need to more seriously study and practice on drums as well as piano,” Bonaccorso says. “Later, the more I got involved with coordinating groups of musicians in jazz workshops, the more I reused what I knew about piano to understand the melodic and harmonic matters of ensemble playing.” “I became curious about a kind of improvisation based on experimental playing around a fixed scale (often modal) over a changing harmonic progression. I really loved how the distributed tensions generated by this approach gave so much dynamic thrust to the music. After this, I asked myself: Why don’t I use this approach in composing as well as improvisation? So, I started writing...”

Having eleven musicians from which to choose allows Bonaccorso to paint Enigmatica with thick and lush rhythmic brushstrokes. He builds up the rhythm of its opening “Cinque Cilindri” with the pull of his drum kit and the push of Lukas Meile’s percussion, landing but never quite settling down into the groove. Pianist Regina Litvinova drives the ensemble into hot Latin jazz while the saxophones explore avenues that push them much further out. “‘Cinque Cilindri’ is the oldest piece, and perhaps the one I wrote most spontaneously, sitting at my mother’s piano, thinking about something dynamic, powerful, like a car with an extra cylinder,” Bonaccorso recalls. “In this piece I added a second melodic line harmonized with the original one and, prior to recording, the rhythmic key of the arrangement evolved into a ‘rumba.’”

Inspired by a trip to a Greek island, the evocative “Il Lago di Ikahti” steps out with the deep, insistent sound of Joscha Oetz’s double bass, while drums and percussion team to nudge Dierk Peters’ jazz vibes from the edges to the center of its tune. The broad range of sounds available from eleven different instruments allows Bonaccorso to write thick rhythms and melodies that churn and bubble around each soloist. “I enjoy the most when I feel my drumming really fills in the music and melody around me and when my playing is positively influenced by what the other musicians are playing and by what they need from me to express themselves at their best—when my playing is able to positively influence their playing,” Bonaccorso explains.

The leader steps out into the spotlight only once on Enigmatica, an unaccompanied solo that opens “Twist” with an incisive, melodic yet rhythmic and funky sound. Vibes and percussion help settle down the melody and the rhythm by filling the spaces between them, and Bonaccorso drives the beat behind the saxophone solo with a rock solid groove...and then the piece falls apart in an ensemble free-for-all until congas find and retrace the threads back into the music. “The intertwining of my mountain roads and those of the often controversial situations of life suggested ‘Twist’ to me, with two melodic lines that introduce tensions and dynamics with respect to the harmonic progression, resolving on the ‘bridge,’ explains Bonaccorso.

For the Enigmatica recording sessions, Bonaccorso put together an ensemble of new and more familiar friends. “I play with some of the musicians on Enigmatica in shared musical projects, especially in the Pannonica Workshop or Filarmonica Laudamo Creative Orchestra, in Italy:

Maria Merlino (saxophones), Giovanni Randazzo (saxophones), Sergio Silipigni (guitar) and Domenico Mazza (electric bass). And I had met Joscha and Regina when they played with the new Richie Beirach quartet,” says Bonaccorso. “But I had never played with them, or with Dierk Peters (vibes) or Lukas Meile (percussion) or Sebastian Gille (saxophones) or Theresia Philipp (saxophones) before. It was really amazing how all the old and the new friends went deep inside the spirit of my compositions and gave them very great added value.”

What does Bonaccorso consider the most satisfying aspect of this debut? “The most satisfying thing is to recognize myself and my life in Enigmatica, with all my wrongs and limits but with all the positive people, places and situations that I have met, too,” he reflects.

“Playing drums, in particular, on these compositions was for me like giving them a new suit, knowing very well their body and shape. The sound of instruments that I had imagined before playing these compositions did not properly suit them and, like a patient tailor, I had to modify lots of things before finding their sound. Listening to how the other musicians were so giving in these pieces, their interpretation and quality, is amazing. The end of our work sounds like the right fit, and this is really pleasing for me!”

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