Recorded and released in 1995, Ciao Bella was the first album by the Vancouver avant-garde jazz quartet Talking Pictures. Half of the fourteen tracks are short group improvisations. They serve as bridges between the tighter compositions, all credited to leader Ron Samworth, except for "In Motian" penned by drummer Dylan van der Schyff and renditions of Ornette Coleman's "Lorraine" and Robin Holcomb's "Continuity." Talking Pictures was an unusual quartet playing unusual music with unusual instrumentation: electric guitar with effects (Samworth), trumpet (Bill Clark), cello (Peggy Lee), and drums (Schyff). In the group's early years, the approach was to play double-sided sets like this, with free improvs creating space and texture among the compositions (the same organization can be found on their second CD The Mirror with a Memory). Samworth's writing relies on hooky lines, a warped sense of lyricism, a strong Coleman influence (especially in the use of harmolodics), and a use of grooves inherited from rock music. That last element is illustrated by "The Out Doors/Way In," which features a long crescendo by the drums and cello, with the guitar punctuating chords and the trumpet soloing all the way through. "In Motian" also belongs in part to the rock realm, evoking early Palinckx. On the other hand, "Ciao Bella," with its fake tango motif, recalls the late-'80s music of René Lussier (an inspiration for Samworth's style?) and Jean Derome. This album was a good indication of the band's potential, more fully reached on its second CD.
AllMusic Review by François Couture