THERE are few individuals around today who can make an acoustic guitar sound like Antonio Forcione does.
Whether playing solo or with the gifted Sarah Jane Morris, his guitar never fails to mesmerise. He can make it sing or weep.
It can tug at your heart strings, make your spine tingle with joy or trigger a smile after a hard day’s work. Seventh heaven. Guitar nirvana.
At the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on Thursday night, the guitar genius was performing as part of the Antonio Forcione Quartet. On stage with him and his collection of guitars were Matheus Nova on Bass, Emiliano Caroselli on percussion and drums – and Jenny Adejayan on Cello.
A beautifully crafted Quartet, working together rather than against each other. Nova, unassuming; Caroselli, gentle and occasionally amusing; Adejayan, cooly sublime. Forcione at the Quartet’s heart, the focus but in a subtle way. Harmony.
Thrillingly, a further member was added for the night as Marta Capponi – a Brazilian singer – provided some evocative and mind-blowing vocals. On occasion, she stole the show as she brought the sounds of Africa – the world – into the confines of Ronnie Scott’s. A stupendous, sensual performer. Shut your eyes for a moment and you would think it was Miriam Makeba on stage, making a comeback from the grave.
The set was built around Forcione’s successful album Sketches of Africa with the Quartet delivering beautiful versions of Tar, Madiba’s Jive (a tribute to Nelson Mandela), Song For Zimbabwe (where Capponi excelled) and Africa (again, Capponi sending shivers through the souls of the audience).
But Forcione is renowned for his versatility, as evidenced on Havana (acknowledging his love of Cuba and its music), Alhambra and Tarantella (based on an Italian myth that to ward off the effects of being bitten by a tarantula it was best to dance naked). No one obliged on the naked dancing front although a number of Ronnie Scott’s quietly efficient waitresses could not stop swaying their hips as Adejayan’s Cello burst into song.
Intimate and heart rending though most of Forcione’s music is, he does not miss the opportunity to entertain. His Pink Panther homage to Henry Mancini (The Cool Cat) was rapturously received as he stood on stage alone with an imaginary drummer, employing parts of his guitar others would never think of using to generate some extraordinary sounds. Indeed, Caroselli temporarily joined in to help him play the guitar – armed with only a pair of drum brushes. An amusing moment as was the Quartet’s rendition of Maurizio’s Party (a tribute to a long departed friend) when they played musical tennis with an imaginary ball. Clever.
Indian Café and Tears Of Joy – Quartet standards – were expertly delivered as was a homage to Django Reinhardt. But it was Capponi’s tender version of Twilight that stroked every musical bone in the body.
Capponi, like the Quartet, was sensational . If I were Forcione, I would make her a permanent fixture. A new dawn awakes. The Antonio Forcione Quintet.
A final word. There are still tickets left for the Quartet’s/Quintet’s second show at Ronnie Scott’s on Friday August 24. The shows starts at 10.30.
If you love live music and you are within spitting distance of London’s Soho, it is simply unmissable.