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Colpi di Luna
Canzoni e cronache lunari (1969-2009)
“Sprinkle my ashes on the moon”. This was Michael Jackson’s wish. An understandable wish for the creator of the “moonwalk”, his dance-step copied to no avail, and complicated. Islam does not allow cremation and in any case getting his spoils to the surface of the moon would have been decidedly arduous, above all for someone who has left 500 million dollars worth of debt. The first moon landing’s 40th anniversary has not gone unnoticed: exhibitions, conferences, memorialday, radio and TV programmes, books, every sector of mass-media has remembered the event in its own way. There have also been those who have involved the whole of 1969 in the recurrence, in other words the Woodstock period and other unforgettable moments of music and events. An added reason for closing and remembering metaphorically the prodigious seventies, such a fundamental part of youth culture. Radio too could not miss out on this appointment, seeing how music filled the astronauts’ days with sound inside their capsule. There have also been those who have concocted a sort of astronauts’ playlist, on the basis of the needs and tastes of the various crews. This is by no means bizarre: it is well known how the moment of waking has always been a fundamental moment of life in space. We already knew that Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry and Across the Universe by the Beatles were at the time transmitted by the NASA Deep Space Network into endless space as a “sign of evolved civilisation”, but we all felt a lot more relaxed when we learned that Neil Armstrong listened to “Music out of the Moon” by Les Baxter during his excursions into space, and so a piece from “exotica”, a genre that is a close relative of the most classic of sounds, in the days when it had yet to be defined as “ambient”. A musical journey along an impervious lunar path, if nothing else, allows us to follow a route that is not necessarily conformist. Indeed, because the role of the moon in songs has always been the one of the eternal muse, somewhere between complicity and pandering, accompanying adolescent tremors and mature languor. But today, that in this field it is the use of “selfing” that prevails, that is to say an obstinacy in starting over from oneself, perhaps using strong forms of provocation so as to react to the crisis, everything seems to take on a different look. A somewhat special satellite, at times pretentious at others a mere flanking element, but always burdened with the task of being the one that opens the track, over and above where amorous episodes are concerned. Situated at a distance that is after all not so prohibitive - the average professional cyclist covers the distance several times during his career – the Moon has always helped composers, making them dream, freeing their imagination. The trouble is that in today’s in popular music no one mentions dreams any more, but only objectives. This is not the same thing.In putting together the compilation we have begun with some important lunar themes, both Italian and not, keeping in mind those cases in which that somewhat jagged soil has brought luck. Starting with Jenny Luna, the screamer who grew up in the shadow of Mina, but who was actually, before that, an excellent jazz singer. And then the Roman, the pet and the voice of the Roman New Orleans Jazz Band, Maria Clotilde Tosti who seemed to make little artistic headway with both her real name and her invented name, Tilde Natil. She was to definitely become Luna/Moon in 1957 in Lebanon, when she sang with the orchestra of her husband, Romano Frigeri, who had been the sax’ player for the Orchestra Angelini. Memorable is her live version of Tintarella di Luna (Moon Tan), in the 1961 programme “Vecchio e nuovo (Old and New)”. From the same programme come Blue moon by the Quartetto Cetra, Plenilunio (Full Moon) by Nicola Arigliano and Luna caprese (Capri Moon) by Peppino Di Capri, three different moments of pure lunar exaltation but also classics destined to remain in the repertoires of these great voices. From the 1961 programme “Musica Club” comes Quando la Luna (When the Moon), a theme by Alberto Testa put at the disposal of Corrado Lojacono, a definitely underrated singer, who knew how to interpret swing but, when the need arose, was also a good crooner. The same can be said for the better known Natalino Otto – who sang and recorded at least a dozen American classics with “moon” in the title – when in 1958 he tackled Che Luna, che mare (What a Moon, What a Sea), a piece that, the decidedly obvious title aside, is not so obvious from a musical point of view, thanks also to Franco Mojoli’s orchestra. And, on the subject of orchestras, here is the glitter – and the swing! – of the two led by Gorni Kramer and Lelio Luttazzi, the first already a radio star, and the man from Trieste coming to grips with his early experiences as a director and absolutely earliest (“exhausting”, to use his words) musical arrangements. It was by then 1954, and their radio orchestras already had the best solo jazz musicians in Italy, fully expressed in the famous programme “Nati per la musica/Born for Music”: here are their versions of Un po’ di Luna (A little Bit of Moon) and the medley “Blue moon (Moonlight serenade)”. Quante lune (How many Moons) instead dates back to 1957, and is the piece in which Kramer, in this case also the author, showed both technique and inspiration with the instrument with which he excelled, the accordion (but his first instrument was the double bass). Whilst on the subject of jazz, here is a real gem: Johnny Desmond tackling “‘Na voce ‘na chitarra e ‘o poco ‘e Luna (A Voice a Guitar and a Touch of Moonlight), one of the best known Neapolitan songs of the fifties, by Ugo Calise and Carlo Alberto Rossi (here with the English text by Al Stillman). Amongst this song’s many records is that of being the one most played before kings, queens, rulers, sheiks, sultans and crowned heads in general. With a theme of this type we could not but pay homage to the Sanremo Festival, which we do with a special version of the runner up at the first edition of this event in 1951, La Luna si veste d’argento (The Moon Clothes Itself in Silver), a piece that Achille Togliani sang at the Salone delle Feste (Sanremo Festival Hall) together with the many times winner Nilla Pizzi (but here she is substituted by Carla Boni). Instead, Luna sanremese/Sanremo Moon has nothing to do with the festival, as it was part of the musical comedy “Carlo non farlo” (Charles don’t do it), written by Garinei and Giovannini (with music by Gorni Kramer) for Carlo Dapporto and Lauretta Masiero. A piece from 1956 a part of the ample satire on the then recently celebrated wedding between Ranieri of Monaco and Grace Kelly. Yet Renato Rascel’s version is certainly superior to the version by that Sanremo born artist that was Dapporto. The Sanremo Festival takes us straight to Claudio Villa, in our disk with Non aspettar la Luna (Don’t Wait for the Moon), a piece from 1958, in which the Roman singer is accompanied by the orchestra of the pianist and composer from Sora, Ovidio Sarra, for many years his faithful musical right-hand man. Dark moon is here proposed in a very night-style version by Franco e i G5, one of the most popular dance bands of the fifties, with its leader, the Florentine Franco Rosselli, who was the singer and played the drums. To this extraordinary list of singers and musicians one must add the equally robust list of journalists that reported on the moon landing, among them Danilo Colombo, Luca Liguori, Aldo Salvo, Francesco Mattioli and a dynamic Enrico Ameri, that would here seem to be intentioned not to ‘excuse’ anyone in his highly emotive radio report conducted like a counterattack. But before them there are the voices of the three astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins, and even the one of the crew’s doctor, Charles Berry. The words Armstrong spoke when he set foot upon the moon are consigned to history and for once even Richard Nixon’s words seem sincere when he congratulates Armstrong in moved tones. And then the intellectuals and travellers: Oriana Fallaci and Alberto Moravia, dry that bit that’s needed in their reports. Informative instead was the astronomer Ginestra Amaldi. Lyrical but not too melancholic was the vision of Alfonso Gatto, another person used to being on personal name terms with the Moon, who here remembers he’s a poet but also a great jazz lover.  
Dario Salvatori
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