Giovanni Costello – lead vocals / piano on Nr. 9
Nicolò Fragile – piano & keyboards
Francesco Corvino – drums
Marco Evans – Barbra O`Brien – Laura Falcinelli – backing vocals
Marco Mariniello – bass
Luca Meneghello – guitars
Daniele Moretto – trumpet
& The Budapest Art Orchestra
The title of Giovanni Costello’s new album “In alto Mare” has never sounded so topical. After all, we have been “on the high seas” for some time now – in the sense applied to Corona and the world situation – and in troubled waters at that. At the mercy of the whims of nature and fate, but also set out for new shores and on a journey. All of which flows into Costello’s album, even if it shines primarily in Italian colors, because it depicts Costello’s career path and experiences all around: From Cantautori singer-songwriters and jazzy crooner vocals to international pop and funk.
A range that was mapped out early on. Even as a young boy, Costello ran through his grand-mother’s kitchen singing Celentano hits; at the age of seven, he learned the piano and soon after stood on a stage for the first time. While still at school, he formed his first band – with which he toured all over Italy by the time he was 18. It quickly became clear that he would make music his profession. But it was also clear that he wanted to have a solid foundation. So he studied piano in Perugia and composition in May-land. One of the ways he financed his studies was by performing as a bar pianist as often as he could. An intensive time and an important wealth of experience, which Costello takes up on “In alto Mare” with his version of Francesco De Gregori’s “La donna cannone” and lets it pass in review.
This was the time when he discovered his special voice and its irresistible effect on the audience. Not least on the German audience. Soon after his studies, Costello moved his main residence to Germany on the recommendation of a manager and because of the demand as a pianist – even though he regularly recharges his batteries in his Umbrian homeland. He owes his breakthrough as a singer to his performance on the first season of “The Voice of Germany” in 2011, which took him to the semifinals and into the hearts of an audience of millions. Since then, Costello has become an outstanding ambassador for Italian style, the Italian way of life and, above all, Italian music. What with his sixth album “In alto Mare” reaches a new height in terms of diversity.
Elegant as ever, Costello combines the styles here more than ever. Already at the beginning with the title track, an Italian pop classic by Loredana Berté, he succeeds in a funky reminiscence of the disco era of the seventies and eighties, which was influenced by bands like Kool & the Gang, gar-nished with an oldschool rap interlude. Costello’s version of “Non Avere Paura”, a previously unre-leased piece by guitarist Mauro Culotta, one of the house writers of the “prima donna of Italo-pop” Mina, also takes us back to these times, which were not only musically imbued with unadulterated optimism.
Going back even further, to the first great era of singer/songwriters, is “Era bella,” the Italian ver-sion of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Nothing Rhymed,” released in 1971. Costello turns it into an over-whelming anthem, not least thanks to the duet with the unmistakable Fausto Leali, one of the great Italian singers of the eighties and nineties, who also represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Con-test. Costello dives completely into the Cantautori cosmos on the melancholy “Vivere”, which is obviously also inspired by the great Italian opera tradition. Another previously unreleased song by Antonio Galbiati for the great Eros Ramazotti. And Zucchero’s typical R’n’B-infused power sound can be heard on “Guardare ma non toccare”.
Of course, Costello has not only selected outstanding pieces of foreign authors for “In Alto Mare”, but has also given free rein to his own passion for composition, which began with the penultimate album “Splendido”. The “Blues”, which lives up to its title, and the driving “Amami” pour his own experiences into emotional sounds. But for all his charismatic presence, Giovanni Costello is no self-promoter. He has always been a team player, teaming up with the best for his messages, from musicians like Luca Meneghello, guitarist of Mina, Italy’s most famous singer, or Marco Mariniello, bassist of Andrea Bocelli, to the SWR Big Band (wrapping his last album “True Italian Stories” in the great form) with its great jazz soloists, to producers like Stuttgart’s Ralf Hesse or Canadian Michael Bublé arranger David Foster.
For “In alto Mare” Nicolò Fragile is a key figure. Not only as a pianist and keyboardist, who always accompanies Costello – except for the final solo “La donna cannone”, where he himself takes up the keys – in a song-serving manner. But above all as arranger and producer of the album. Thanks to his great experience – Fragile has worked on more than 200 albums and with almost all Italian stars from Mina, Irene Grandi, Loredana Bertè or Ornella Vanoni to Eros Ramaz-zotti, Mario Venuti, Adriano Celentano or Mario Biondi in the past 20 years – he found the right twist for every piece, for every style and for every color of Costello’s singing. Whether he adds a gnarly baritone sax riff to the hard syncopated “Amami,” a folky acoustic guitar to “Gelosia,” or stylish synthesizer pads to “Non Avere Paura.” Or for orchestral impact falls back on the great Budapest Art Orchestra.
Thanks not least to Fragile’s help, Giovanni Costello can shine more than ever as the ambassador of the great Italian songs, in all their splendor from classical playfulness to melodramatic and highly romantic moments to pure funk and pop. But for all their stylistic diversity, they always convey love, peace and a sense of community.