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25th Progressivamente Free Festival - Jailbreak Club, Roma

27th September – 1st October 2017

25th Progressivamente Free Festival - Jailbreak Club, Roma

Dedicated to the memory of friends and musicians who had died since the 2016 edition, John Wetton, Greg Lake, Allan Holdsworth and Maurizio Zarrillo, Olga Siciliani and Adria Ackerman, the 25th Progressivamente Free Festival was an evening-only affair over five nights between Wednesday 27th September and Sunday 1st October at Rome’s Jailbreak Live Club where, as is the way with progressive rock in general, the audience, musicians and organisers were friendly and helpful.

My last trip to Rome in 2006 hadn’t involved any live music and though I bought a few CDs from the large La Feltrinelli store on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, it was intended to serve as an introduction to the Eternal City for my family, including running over the same ground as I’d covered when I visited as a student in 1980. On this trip, the evening-only gigs meant that there were plenty of opportunities to explore more of Rome, though a strike by public transport workers restricted travel to some of the potential destinations. The first point of call happened to be Elastic Rock, a record store I’d been told about by a surgeon visiting my department when I worked at Guy’s Hospital, where I purchased some of the more obscure 70’s RPI vinyl reissues, the self-titled Buon Vecchio Charlie LP, Juri Camisasca’s La Finestra Dentro, Samadhi by Samadhi, and Gudrun by Pierrot Lunaire.
I arrived at the Jailbreak Live Club early on the first evening for a performance featuring La Bocca della Verità and Ingranaggi della Valle and had time to grab a beer, chat to Ingranaggi della Valle keyboard player Mattia Liberati who promised something special in their set after I’d compared the band to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, buy their 2013 CD In Hoc Signo and the LBDV CD Avenoth (2016) from the joint merchandise stand, then claim one of the tables set out in front of the stage. The other seat at my table was taken by Vincenzo Praturlon who, despite protestations that his English was poor, was quite happy to engage in conversation about prog. A veteran of previous Progressivamente festivals, Vincenzo would later inform me that the ‘something special’ were tributes to the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa – I’d had to leave early to catch the last train, after only one song from Ingranaggi della Valle. La Bocca della Verità didn’t disappoint, playing a good selection from the Avenoth suite which though at times sounded neo-prog or even modern, it had a very strong footing in the Italian symphonic prog tradition and ticked all the right boxes for me.
The jazz rock theme continued on Thursday, the second night, with Accordo dei Contrari from Bologna who played a brand of tight-knit riff-based fusion with odd time signatures interspersed with more abstract sections and despite the abundance of electric piano and some great moog creating some memorable tones, I found some of the material quite challenging and not a particularly easy listen. Having had a busy couple of days I decided to give Slivovitz, another jazz rock band and a potentially difficult listen a miss.
On Friday I got to Jailbreak a couple of minutes before Flea on the Etna was due on stage and the club was busier than on the two previous nights. Flea on the Etna played a short set of good, straightforward jazz-rock with a hint of a Mediterranean influence. With original bassist Elio Volpini on guitar, one track was from their first album Flea and the other two tracks were form Etna (1975). Consorzio Acqua Potabile (CAP) was one of three bands I’d actually seen before so I recognised most of the music from their set, a collection of lively, 70’s inspired prog. Like in Genova in 2014, they were joined onstage by Alvaro Fella, then when headliners Jumbo ended the evening they were augmented by CAP drummer Maurizio Mussolin and guitarist Massimo Gorlezza, playing a short set including Suite per il Sig. K from DNA (1972).
The club was absolutely crowded on Saturday. I greeted Vincenzo and quickly found a vantage point before it became impossible to move, right next to the cousin of Semiramis bassist Ivo Mileto who had come to lend her support. The evening began with ‘Italia 70’, a roundup some the best RPI committed to record, with guest appearances from Jenny Sorrenti and Gianni Nocenzi where the music included PFM’s Chocolate Kings and E’ Festa, Banco’s 750,000 Anni fa l'Amore and R.I.P. Jenny Sorrenti sang brother Alan’s Vorrei Incontrarti from Aria (1972.) Rounding off the night were Semiramis, the main attraction of the whole festival, with a poignant performance of their Frazz album dedicated to the memory of keyboard player Maurizio Zarrillo who had died three months earlier. Each track was presaged with a short narration, accompanied by a projection of the song title, the music itself was extended and I thought that the whole live presentation felt more coherent than simply listening to the album. Pino Pintabona from Black Widow Records put in an appearance to sell the just-released Frazz Live DVD+CD recorded at Genova's La Claque in April, a gig organised by Black Widow, so of course I bought a copy.
Jailbreak was also pretty full on the Sunday and I just had time to get a beer and visit the merchandise desk for the limited edition vinyl La Notte Anche di Giorno by La Coscienza di Zeno and the Biglietto per l’Inferno LP Vivi. Lotta. Pensa before Biglietto per l’Inferno commenced proceedings. I hadn’t kept up to date with Biglietto per l’Inferno and expected heavy prog, but got an octet playing prog-folk! Two original members remain: Giuseppe Cossa on keyboards and accordion and drummer Mauro Gnecchi, and when I’d adjusted to the shock it was still good, though 1974’s L’Amico Suicida was the best track. The extended hours for public transport which applied on Friday and Saturday didn’t extend to Sunday night, so I opted to miss La Coscienza di Zeno, who I’d seen twice before, in order to catch the last train to get me back to my hotel.

Putting on five nights of high quality music, free of charge, covering a range of prog and mixing established names with more recent acts was an amazing feat. Congratulations and thanks have to go to Guido Bellachioma, to all the artists and to the Jailbreak Club for hosting the event at short notice. It was a nice touch to dedicate the event to members of the prog world who are no longer with us.
I’d personally like to thank everyone who made my stay an unforgettable experience, agreeing to chat to me in English and sharing wonderful progressivo Italiano.

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