Gianmaria Testa

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The product of four years' work, Gianmaria Testa's fifth album is like what he's done before -- not a million miles from Paolo Conte, in some respects. There's a seductive quality to many of the songs, like "Il Meglio Di Te." There's a marvelously poetic quality to the lyrics (which has helped earn him a comparison with Leonard Cohen), but you'll never pin down the music as Italian. Instead, there are stands of tango, jazz, rock, and folk that float through the compositions, ideas that seem to waft through the air rather that sit solidly -- and that's part of the appeal. Nothing is musically fixed in Testa's world. The arrangements (by Peiro Ponzo) are nothing short of ingenious, brilliant little frames for Testa's words and rough, smoky voice. Their sheer sparseness heightens moods and fixes the focus very firmly on the lyrics, and on Testa himself, who stands proudly in front of them. This record might not be a revelation (although tracks like "Preferisco Cosi" deserve to be played often, preferably at night after a couple of glasses of wine), but it is a joy.

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