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Rafael Greco: Dice Que Vive

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Rafael Greco: Dice Que Vive
Rafael Greco in motion, photographed by Leo Álvarez

The Venezuelan composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Rafael Greco appears to be immersed in his creative life. In making a truly deep dive into his cultural topography he has managed to surface for air bringing to life his every experience in a very personal way. On Dice Que Vive he uses his sublime skills to demonstrate the extraordinary energy of his whole musical being to conjure up a maddeningly vivid spectrum of sonic worlds.

These mesmerising scores which he orchestrates with acoustic, electric and electronic strings and percussion instruments, alternating, blending and often entering into full-scale battle with one another. Mr Greco plays a staggering array of instruments on this recording, but he is also aided and abetted by three great percussionists – Luisito Quintero, Roberto Quintero and Mark Walker, and the mighty bassist Rodner Padilla. Together these four musicians – with a stellar array of other guests – make music that veers from the most delicate washes of sound to cataclysmic eruptions. The music – right from “Once Upon a Time” to “Ghost Owner”, the disc’s climactic dénouement – present music depicted through extremes of activity, bold juxtapositions and textures constantly in a state of flux.

As Mr Greco – and the percussionists, together with a few other soloists – revel in fierce and delicate passagework on a panoply of instruments; each instrumentalist managing to hold his own, together making for a broad palette of colours. The rhythms are complex, the atmospheres ethereal or shattering – inspired by Mr Greco’s Venezuela in a state of tragic social and economic degradation – tint the dense music is a wide range of hues. Mr Greco’s vocals and instrumentalism [together with the bassist and percussionists] provides intriguing contrasts through glistening, hollow and hard sonorities.

The composer’s universe is at its most expansive throughout what seems like a percussion symphony during the entire recording, until his “Five Miniatures for Solo Piano”, an eerie evocation of deathly silence presented in a sound-world not unlike some of his [the composer – Mr Greco’s] heroes [Olivier Messiaen]. The final track of the album – disconnected from the rest of the music – though still highly evocative of the surrealism of the composer and his sound-world – is “Ghost Owner”, an angular dialogue between Mr Greco’s tenor saxophone, Juanma Trujilo’s wild chords on the electric guitar, an orchestral force produced by a collision of sorts that brings the disc to an explosive close.

At the centre of this entire performance is Rafael Greco, a chameleon-like multi-instrumental virtuoso who triumphs over the varied colouristic demands and technical challenges of his own compositions. He is joined on this adventure by superb colleagues who make exceptionally lucid and powerful contributions throughout. This makes for a devastatingly brilliant disc.

Tracks: 1: Once Upon a Time; 2: Onde; 3: Mr Iwai; 4: African Boy; 5: Igno Two; 6: 10th Avenue; 7: 11-2; 8: Mantra; 9: Time; 10: An Illusion; 11: Belen; 12: Five Miniatures for Solo Piano; 13: Ghost Owner;

Musicians: Rafael Greco: vocals, background vocals [1 – 6, 8 – 11, 13], electric piano [1 – 4, 6, 9 – 11], acoustic piano [4], keyboards [1 – 11], organ [1 4, 6, 11], samples [1 – 6, 10], guitar samples [9], toy percussion [1, 5, 8], percussion [3], caxixi [1], basses [2], synth bass [3, 6, 8, 10], loops [3], cymbals [3], melodica [5, 10], bike bell [1], cow bell [1], cardboard box and brushes [5], maracas [6], Wurlitzer [67 and whistling [7] rubber drums [11] and tenor saxophone [13]; Luisito Quintero: congas [1, 2, 4, 6, 9 – 11], timbales [1, 2, 11], cowbell [1, 2, 4, 11], bongos [1, 4, 11], guiro [1, 11], maracas [1, 4, 11] and Venezuelan maracas [4], kata [4], talking drum [4], djembe [6], tabla [6, 11], shaker [6, 11] and corn broom brush [6], claves [11], antique cymbals [11] and tamborito [11]; Roberto Quintero cumaco [1], shakere [4, 11], and bongo solo [4] ; Mark Walker: drums [9], triangle [9], rainstick [9], shaker [9], cymbals [9], chimes [9], percussion [9], caxixi [9] and snare loop [9]; Humberto Casanova: drums, snare and brushes [4]; Rodner Padilla: electric bass [1, 4, 11]; Santiago Bosch: Fender Rhodes solo [1], Oberheim Xpander and Electro Harmonix POG2 [1], synthesizer solo and synthesizer effects [6]; Victor Mestas: electric piano – guajeo [11]; Arnaldo Pizzolante: acoustic piano [12]; Randy Brecker: muted trumpet and flugelhorn solo [2]; Steve Khan: acoustic guitars [3, solo on 4] and electric guitar [4]; Rigel Mitxelena: electric guitars [3]; Juan Ángel Esquivel: electric guitars [ solo on 9] and Ebow [9]; Dani Barón: electric guitar [11]; Juanma Trujilo: electric guitar [5, 12] and train samples [11]; Pimpi Santistenan: background vocals [3], samples [6] and whistle [12]; Cony: barking [3]; Guillermo Carrasco: background vocals [4]; Lucia Greco: background vocals [9]; Marcial Istúriz: background vocals [11]; Germán Landaeta: track samples and arrangements [13]; Jorge Coindet

Released – 2022
Label – Blue Canoe Records
Runtime 59:24

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.

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