Ropeadope Records

Lisa Marie Simmons – lead vocal, lyrics; Marco Cremaschini – keyboards, arrangements; Marco Cocconi – bass; Federico Negri – drums; Manuel Caliumi – alto saxophone; Laura Masotto – violin; Denise Dime & Dianne Draper – vocals; Ernest Ikwanga- guitar; Mauro Negri – tenor saxophone; Federico Pierantoni – trombone; Fulvio Sigurta – trumpet, flugelhorn; Donata Greco – flute; Weide Braimah & Maurizio Giannone – percussion

If you think listening to spoken poetry over jazz music sounds boring. Think again! This album, NOTESPEAK 12, is a joy.

There aren’t that many spoken word jazz records. Ken Nordine and Jack Kerouac may have done the best ones. Jayne Cortez probably tops the list for female spoken word recordings. She’s a fine poet but her delivery is a little too angry for me. Lisa Marie Simmons is easy to listen to. Her speech is very musical. She’s got a lovely singing voice. Check out her earlier work with Hippie Tendencies, or, her straight ahead jazz album, LISA MEETS GIANNI.

Lisa’s band is marvellous. Marco Cremaschini handles keyboards and does all the arrangements. When Marco was five years old he said his first love was music. He’s played with some of best jazz players. For the past several years he’s done projects with Lisa Marie Simmons. Lisa and Marco couldn’t be more in tune with each other. It’s almost as if one starts a breathe and the other finishes.

‘Blaze’ is a poem about needing to be joined together. Things, and people, can be messy looking, but for everything to work, a connection has to be made. Marco’s piano starts off in a Vince Guaraldi-like groove. Fulvio Sigurta is impressive on trumpet. He has a bright beautiful tone. Federico Pierantoni plays a bop flavored trombone. Manuel Caliumi on alto, Mauro Negri on tenor saxophone, Federico Negri on drums; they’re all wonderful players.

There is so much going on in this recording. Lisa Marie Simmons and Marco Cremaschini wanted to combine the Western African musical style Afrobeat with European 12 tone music. The number 12 is strongly associated with the heavens—the 12 months, the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the 12 stations of the Moon and of the Sun. This is a theme in much of Lisa’s poetry. Everything’s connected. Life can be hard but we have to embrace our differences and accept the beauty of different skin colors, religions, and cultures.

You don’t have to contemplate the words if you don’t want to. You don’t have to care if it’s Afrobeat or twelve tone. Just listen to the incredible band. Everyone solos beautifully. If you want, pretend Lisa’s voice is a sultry French horn trading licks with Marco Cremaschini’s piano.

NOTESPEAK 12 is scheduled for February 24, 2023 release. I think you will like it!

Reviewed by Tim Larsen