Published Jul 16, 2018While late Italian composer Piero Piccioni still feels like a relative underdog in the soundtrack world, that's slowly but surely been changing. Thanks to an increasingly long list of reissues in recent years, a much-needed light has been shone of many of the maestro's criminally unheard works. Sonor Music Editions is now unearthing some of the composer's rarest tracks, including the impossible — digging up Piccioni's RCA SP series releases for its stunning Al Cinema Con Piero Piccioni.
In many ways, Piccioni's RCA SP series albums have been more the thing of legend than actual reality, with each of the two volumes only ever arriving as extremely limited promo-only copies through RCA Italiana in 1968. Since then, originals have gone on to fetch four-figure prices — that is, if you can even find one. Sonor has thankfully remedied that by cherry-picking selections from both volumes for this 12-song reissue.
Considering all the tracks were recorded for various film projects between 1963 and 1965 (including Chi Lavora E Perduto, Le Mani Sulla Città and Nude Calde E Pure), Al Cinema Con features Piccioni at the peak of his classic "jazz period." In fact, the album is as much for jazz heads as film music buffs, if not more so, with the instrumental selections showcasing the rising Roman jazz vibes of the time and all the greatness that came with them.
And while many of these songs have remained relatively unheard over the years, throwaways they are not. Throughout, Piccioni leads a stunning array of small-combo pieces displaying innovative use of trumpet, tenor, organ and vibes, all the while inserting the ear-worming melancholic melodies that would eventually become his calling card.
But not only does Al Cinema Con show Piccioni's gifts as a composer, it features some serious stunning musicianship at the hands of the Italian players, such as the breakout horn work on "Dukes in Dixie" and the searing "Fast West End," the manically delivered piano of "Night Prowl," and the tripped-out vibes work of "Port Royal Blues." There's even a bit of Bora Bora exotica on the appropriately titled "Latino."
At its core, though, Al Cinema Con does what all great Piccioni albums do — capture some faraway nostalgia that's neither here nor there, effectively making it all feel timeless. It also doesn't hurt that the reissue's impressive remastering job may make it one of the best-sounding Sonor releases yet.
Whether you're a Piccioni newbie or a devoted disciple, Al Cinema Con Piero Piccioni is an essential package, further cementing him as one of the 20th century's most underrated musical masterminds. (Sonor Music Editions)