The Mindful Bard – Espresso Manifesto

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

Album: Daniela Nardi, Espresso Manifesto: The Songs of Paolo Conte

?My Espresso Manifesto: To create and showcase works that proudly display the wonders, genius, and beauty of those earthy, complex, elegant, primal people, my people?the Italian people.?

Daniela Nardi, from the liner notes on Espresso Manifesto

Paolo Conte’s Lyrics Never Got So Much Lovin?

If you did a word association game with a random assortment of Canadians, what responses might you get to the word Italian? Spaghetti, of course, but also perhaps Vespa, Fellini, Sophia, Verdi. Then the mind is flooded with images of noisy streets with fabulous sculptures and architecture, and the sound of staccato shouts in rapid crescendo and decrescendo. The word Italian is redolent of rich scents, tastes, sights, and, of course, sounds, of strong passions and tender scenes.

But what do you think when you hear the words Italian-Canadian? This might conjure up images of Little Italies in major cities from east to west, vibrant business communities, and inspiring contributions to the arts and entertainment. Far from being incompatible, Italians fit right in with the multicultural urban and rural landscapes and are arguably just what this country needs: the perfect antidote to a tendency toward excessive waspishness.

Daniela Nardi has up until now been pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter. Her previous work was more pop than jazz, but her singing, in English, seemed to have a hesitant quality, as if she’d been out of her true element. With Espresso Manifesto She’s come brilliantly into her own. In fact, the more difficult genre of jazz comes so naturally to her that when you go back and listen to her pop tracks, they sound creatively stifled by comparison.

“I was looking to re-invent myself creatively,? Nardi is quoted as saying on her website. ?There’s a deep richness in the Italian Songbook which is comparable to the Brazilian songbook or even French Chansons. The Italian Songbook has so much to offer to world music.?

She’s right. But She’s the first female to record Conte’s songs, which perhaps due to their salient virility haven’t been tackled by chanteuses before now. Italy has long been a fountainhead of jazz standards, but Conte’s songs in particular have unleashed something in her that is quintessentially Nardi; these lyrics take on a beautiful elan when they come from her lips.
Conte’s lyrics can best be described as impressionistic, by which I mean that they resemble some of Jacques Brel’s songs (e.g. ?Amsterdam? and ?Le Plat Pays?): songs which appear to be saying nothing at the same time they’re saying it all, cryptic, ironic, tragic, bursting with longing and regret, and swimming in atmosphere. It’s no surprise that they’ve often been used in soundtracks for movies demanding a sophisticated flavour.)

Not knowing Italian makes them somewhat more deliciously mysterious and it actually helps that you don’t know if some of those sounds are scat singing or just words (chips chips? chee bom chee bom bom?)?they sound so sweetly and mindlessly playful.

It’s hard to say how this album fits with Canadian culture because these songs are in themselves as multicultural as is Canada, with Hispanic and French elements mixed up with a heady jazz flavour, a fragrant stew in which the flavours have long ago married and are now living happily ever after.

The arrangements are apt right down to the accordion and swinging clarinet, and the band collaborates with an instinctive onrush of primal sensuality. How could they not? Nardi’s delivery of these wonderful songs could make the dead get up and start ballin? the jack.

Espresso Manifesto manifests four of the Mindful Bard’s criteria about for music well worth hearing: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful artistic endeavour; 3) it gives me artistic tools; and 4) it makes me appreciate that life is a complex and rare phenomenon, making living a unique opportunity.

Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.

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