Album Review: Gianni Denitto – Kāla [Elastica Records; 26th June 2018]

As a professional saxophonist, Gianni Denitto has spent the past two years touring, playing gigs and giving masterclasses around the world. Coming from a classical formation and with extensive experience in jazz music, the Italian musician has explored the intersection of classical and jazz with electronic music since his first solo album Brain on a Sofa. Two years of globetrotting with his saxophone has led him to discover and explore the music culture of the countries he has visited, which he has treasured and finally made his own.

Kāla, out on June 26th for Elastica Records, enshrines in six tracks all the bits and pieces he has gathered from the four corners of the earth, led by the rich sound of his saxophone.

The album kicks in with “Air China”, a chilled down-tempo track with electro hints steered by the words of Singaporean/Canadian hip-hop artist MAS1A, switching between English and Chinese so casually that you’ll barely notice. With hints of Amon Tobin’s Isam, Disclosure’s electro synths and melodies on the pentatonic scale make a perfect blend when paired with Denitto’s mellow saxophone.

No time to process what you have just heard; you’re already being teleported to the other side of the globe, to the deserts of Morocco. “Cafe D’Arab” takes a plunge into the hectic and rich rhythms of North African and gnawa music. The North African sound is definitely dominant, until you realise Denitto has been playing since the very beginning, his saxophone craftily camouflaged as a relentless back melody of the track, with a raw and rhythmical sound reminiscent of Shabaka Hutchings in The Comet Is Coming.

Through the six tracks, Denitto explores the realms of dub, reggae, Indian raga and Western African music. He collaborates with Swedish/Ghanaian reggae group Roots By Nature and British dub ensemble Zion Train in “Stockholm Rasta and with Indian actor Supriyo Dutta in “True, the closing track of the album. But, his true masterpiece is a song inspired by a country that wouldn’t be considered “exotic”, at least in the western world: Sweden.

“Tillsammans” (meaning “together” in Swedish), is one of those rare pieces of music that will get through to you from its very first note. Slower, immersive and intimate — It’s like walking through a snow-covered city on a sunny day in December, when it’s freezing but everything around you is brighter and more vivid than you could ever imagine. It is arguably the most authorial track of Kāla, where Denitto’s talent and creativity as saxophonist and composer truly come to light. A true gem.

This album is literally a journey through the world, every track taking inspiration from the tradition of a different land and a different culture. Yet Denitto is never literal in the way he develops his tracks, constantly exploring the expressiveness of his saxophone in the broadest sense possible. At times he reflects the music heritage of the country he’s honouring, while in others he breaks free to express his creative potential. Gianni Denitto is a truly talented musician and Kāla is the proof of it. Hearing is believing.