Five Feet From Home

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The Italian guitarist and bandleader Nicotina seems to come out of the European avant-garde music scene, but just like many other people who carry guitars around, he can be easily drawn into guitar styles that so-called "normal" people think are groovy; more -- or perhaps less -- than can be said about the avant-garde at any given moment. The Five Feet From Home CD chronicles a dozen interactions both solo and with Nicotina and the Legs, a trio in which the sensitive backing of drums and acoustic bass are no obstacle in terms of the guitarist being able to venture where he wishes. Nicotina is a stage name for a bright young fellow whose academic career, something apart from music altogether, has allowed him the opportunity to nibble at several American college music scenes such as Charlottesville, Virginia. These environments may not have had much impact on his music other than providing the possibility of a tiny audience, yet the American scene in general has to be blamed for such song titles as "Thoughts on a Car Being Towed," "Your S.U.V.'s on Fire" and the "Strip Mall Song." Nicotina deals in abstract instrumental settings, however, these titles seem to be simply glued on to compositions for the cleverness factor. As a player, Nicotina is clear and steady, coming up with mesmerizing improvisations over his rhythm section on the opening "Hope St. Tempo" and "Sea Hag," the latter also seeming to feature somebody taking an uncredited saxophone solo. "We Can't Be Darlings Anymore" is one of the tracks that gets into somewhat drifting areas of free jazz or free improvisation, another is the opening of "Five Feet From Home," once again also infected by the mysterious saxophone squealing as it normally does in this kind of music. "I Fall to Pieces" is indeed the Patsy Cline ditty, given a charming rendition in which Nicotina's casual vocal and the playful drumming of Jacopo Andreini are wonderful.

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