Album review: Daniele Sollo - Order and DisOrder (2020)
Bassist and composer Daniele Sollo released his first solo album ORDER AND DISORDER in 2020, employing the talents of some of the musicians he’s worked with in the past, notably Stefano Agnini, Alessandro Corvaglia, Luca Scherani and Fabio Zuffanti from his time as a session musician with Höstsonaten, to add a little extra glamour to his artistic vision. With Zuffanti largely stepping back from playing duties on Höstsonaten’s 2016 album SYMPHONY N.1 CUPID & PSYCHE, it was Sollo who provided the bass guitar parts, and he was still with the band when I saw them at the Z-Fest in Milan in 2018, where he also helped out ISProject during their set when they performed their debut album. In 2014 Luca Scherani put together a version of SEE EMILY PLAY for a Mellow Label Productions Pink Floyd tribute CD called ECHOES OF SECRETS with Sollo, Matteo Nahum, Maurizio Di Tollo, and Fabio Zuffanti on vocals.
The genesis of ORDER AND DISORDER pre-dates Sollo’s time with Höstsonaten, hinted at in an interview with Athos Enrile for a 2015 article in MAT2020 web-magazine. In the same interview, Sollo described how his musical journey began when he started to pick out Beethoven’s Bagatelle no. 25 (FÜR ELISE) on a toy piano at the age of seven, before picking up the bass guitar at age 14 influenced by acid jazz, playing by ear. Feeling the need to learn more about the music and the instrument, he began studies with Giuseppe Brandi, taking in classical music and all forms of jazz, including Latin and orchestral. During this time he became interested in jazz-rock and progressive rock and was able to play in a variety of different styles. He formed the group VisionAir in 1997 to play progressive music, contributing to both music and lyrics. VisionAir finally disbanded in 2011 having played a few well-received gigs and made a demo album titled INVISIBLE VISIONS, which was shelved when the band broke up.
His slap technique and polyphonic tapping are associated with his 5-string basses, but there’s a lot of fretless work too, used for expressiveness, developed after studying Jaco Pastorius. The different techniques give his music a chameleonic form (to use his term), shifting between hard prog, jazz-fusion, string quintet, bass and voice, and solo bass.
Sollo also points out Chris Squire as an influence, citing him as an innovator. Along with Jaco Pastorius, Squire helped redefine the role of the electric bass, taking it from behind the other instruments to one of equal standing with keyboards, guitars, or any other, while still maintaining its rhythmic role. Sollo describes the bass lines of Squire and Pastorius as accompaniment solos that blend into the main theme played by the voice or by the other instruments, and describes this as one of the fundamental principles of his own playing.
Comprised of only six tracks, ORDER AND DISORDER is an eclectic mix of progressive rock, jazz fusion, prog metal, classical and cantautori genres. With a list of carefully chosen collaborators, the result is an impressive expression of a broad musical language.
II-IX-1683. The title refers to the date of the Siege of Vienna, an attack on the Habsburg monarchy by Ottoman Turks, ultimately repelled by King Jan III Sobieski and bringing a halt to the Turkish expansion into Europe. The lyrics describe the evils and futility of war and the madness of fighting in the name of religion. The track, co-written with guitarist Domenico Cataldo, begins with a melodic piano motif before developing into melodic prog metal. There’s a surprising amount of development with nice stylistic changes, and there’s even a brief jazzy solo. It was released as a single on iTunes in 2014.
TURN LEFT is an instrumental co-written with American keyboard player Jason Rubenstein and dates back to 2014 when it was released on digital platforms as a second single. It’s an energetic, atmospheric piece with plenty of changes, almost prog jazz metal where the slap bass takes the lead before a straightforward jazz rock fade out.
A JOURNEY is the first of two long-form compositions written with the help of Cataldo and Stefano Agnini. It begins slowly with melodic strings (arranged by Luca Scherani.) Corvaglia handles the vocal duties and there’s a run-through of all the song words before a short prog metal break and a long instrumental middle section featuring really tasteful guitar before a reprise of the second half of the vocals to the end of the track. This has a laid back feel, especially during the vocal passages, with restrained drumming, and it fits together rather well.
IN MY ARMS has a quite simple arrangement of fretless bass, string section, arranged by Scherani, and vocals. The singing on this track isn’t quite as effective as elsewhere on the album but I concentrated on the bass line, its harmonics and pauses and how it fitted with the strings.
ANYTIME, ANYPLACE is another long-form piece and this composition, co-written with Cataldo, best conforms to a classic rock progressivo template. There’s a catchy melody and Corvaglia’s vocals remind me of Bernardo Lanzetti singing on PFM’s Jet Lag during their inclination towards jazz rock. There’s lots of development and around half way through the track there’s a shift to more modern sounding prog with distorted guitar chords. This piece has it all – a fluid synthesizer solo, hints of Jethro Tull and perhaps not surprisingly, a hint of La Maschera di Cera.
The last track is a virtuoso solo bass interpretation of Gabriel Faure's PAVANE IN F# MINOR. In the Athos Enrile interview, Sollo acknowledges that it’s an unusual thing for a bass guitarist to do, but describes the requirement to investigate the classical repertoire as part of his make-up. It’s an intricate piece nicely executed.
What comes across on ORDER AND DISORDER is Sollo’s excellent compositional skill. The pieces display a wide range of moods, with its rhythmical shifts and tempo changes and genre hopping, all of which is nicely summed up by the melange of cultures on the cover artwork of the CD.