November 16, 2010

Campisi and La Barbera at Bleu

Laura Campisi
One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star. — Nietzsche
Last Sunday (November 14, 2010) I had the great pleasure of attending, L'A...Merica in Duet Tour, the maiden event of the Sicilian Cultural Institute of America, at Bleu nightclub in Hempstead, Long Island. In addition to promoting Sicily's history and culture, the Sicilian Cultural Institute of America is the only organization outside of Sicily offering Sicilian Language courses. The group did an excellent job in setting up this event and deserves our thanks.
L'A...Merica in Duet was a fantastic show featuring jazz vocalist Laura Campisi, whose wide-ranging voice radiated power and sensuality. In addition to her vocal talent, she has terrific stage presence and is very engaging. Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with her work, but now I understand the excitement of her fans before the show. Her performance was spellbinding and I feel very lucky to have attended.

Ms. Campisi was born in Palermo, Sicily. Among her many impressive achievements are winning first prize in the 2009 Lucca Jazz Donna and the 2010 Premio Bianca d'Aponte in Aversa.
Accompanying Ms. Campisi was guitar virtuoso John T. La Barbera. I've had the pleasure of seeing Mr. La Barbera perform on several occasions, including with the award-winning opera soprano Cristina Fontanelli, I Giullari di Piazza and Alessandra Belloni. I've also attended his fascinating lecture Echoes of Mulberry Street at the Italian American Museum. Mr. La Barbera wrote the film score for Peter Miller's Sacco and Vanzetti documentary, and is both an author and music teacher. I'm amazed at his great versatility and talent.
With only two rehearsals and one live performance prior to Sunday’s show, the duo improvised and performed flawlessly. They had a chemistry that some musicians playing years together never attain. They played samples from Ms. Campisi's extensive oeuvre, which included variations of traditional Neapolitan and Sicilian folk songs as well as Jazz-folk fusion, giving familiar songs a new twist. My personal favorite was their haunting rendition of Buttana di to mà sung to the droning rhythm of the marranzano, or Jew's harp. To the crowd's pleasure they played two masterful sets and an encore.
In addition to the great music there was great food. We were treated to a fine assortment of authentic Sicilian delicacies provided by the Sicilian Cultural Institute of America. On the menu were homemade panelle, caponata, arancini and sfincione. Dubbed "Sicilian pizza," sfincione is a delicious focaccia topped with tomatoes and onions. It was out of this world.
Of course, there was also plenty of wine on hand. Nero d'Avola, one of Sicily's most renowned wines was my beverage of choice and complemented the meal perfectly.

John T. La Barbera and Laura Campisi (Photos courtesy of New York Scugnizzo)
I had such a great time at the show I plan on seeing John La Barbera and Laura Campisi perform again this Wednesday (November 17, 2010) at Fat Baby Lounge (112 Rivington St., NY, NY) at 8:00 PM. It's not very often I get to enjoy live Southern Italian music, so I try to take advantage of every opportunity I can. The fact that the collaborating musicians are of such a high caliber makes the event all the more special and it is imperative that I go. I know it's short notice, but if you could make it I highly recommend this show. If it's anything like Sunday night's performance, you won't be disappointed.