Lingomania: reverberations of an electrified soul

In the 1980s, the Italian jazz scene was diverse and offered musicians the opportunity to move freely between past and present, between tradition and new trends. These push into a future yet to be written, or perhaps to be deciphered, to find, where possible, new paths of expression.

Internationally, we are witnessing a momentous transformation within the jazz scene; the increasing use of sophisticated electronic equipment, keyboards, pads, and distortion, allows musicians to expand specific expressive and timbral horizons, in the context of genres ranging from rock to funk. On the one hand, instrumentalists active in the rock scene are approaching jazz in order to broaden their theoretical and expressive background, on the other hand, jazz musicians are increasingly being called upon to participate as session men in the production of pop record works and soft-rock; experiences that bring about a marked change in mental approach toward a musical world looked upon until then with a certain diffidence.

In Italy such dynamics within the various music scenes became apparent late compared to the United States or other European countries, paving the way for the gradual establishment of the fusion genre. The spread of fusion in those years in Italy can also be ascribed to extra-musical motivations that closely relate to specific socio-cultural and political aspects: in the aftermath of the terrible period of the “years of lead“, with the wake of social upheaval and latent fears, people feel the need to project themselves into a “new era” with newfound lightheartedness and positivity.

In the context of jazz, this common feeling is transformed into the public’s gradual disinterest in the free jazz movement and the various political movements that have arisen around it, in favor of a more contemporary sound that can attract the attention of the large segment of international pop-music and rock listeners. In this scenario, fusion takes on the role of a medium capable of satisfying the tastes of listeners less accustomed to handling jazz material.

Lingomania was the leading ensemble of this phase of Italian music; founded in 1984 by saxophonist and composer Maurizio Giammarco following a meeting with trumpeter Flavio Boltro, the quintet featured Stefano Sabatini on keyboards, Roberto Gatto on drums and Furio Di Castri on double bass.

Lingomania was immediately well received by audiences and critics, to which were added victories in 1984 and 1985 as “best group” in the “Top Jazz” referendum held by Musica Jazz magazine. The difficulty, however, of finding a label to record a good, low-cost product will delay the release of the first album Reverberations by two years.

On the record, pianist Stefano Sabatini is replaced by guitarist Umberto Fiorentino. Shortly thereafter, Maurizio Giammarco. in an attempt to achieve an even more electrified sound, decided to replace Boltro’s trumpet with Danilo Rea’s synthesizers and, again, Furio Di Castri’s double bass with Enzo Pietropaoli‘s electric bass. With this new line-up, Lingomania recorded their second album Grr…Expanders in 1987. Played and mixed entirely in the studio, the record work represents a further evolution in Maurizio Giammarco’s timbral and compositional research work, somewhere between past experiences and new musical thinking, between acoustic and electronic sounds, without ever betraying the legacy of the Bebop let alone the spirit of rupture of the European and African-American avant-gardes.

Lingomania performs at the Big Mama venue in Rome, with five concerts a week that sell out every night, at a variety of Italian venues, including the Umbria Jazz Festival, and on the Rai DOC program, presented by Renzo Arbore and Gegè Telesforo.

Despite its success with the public, the lineup divides specialized critics, uncertain whether to embrace new jazz trends or remain entrenched in more orthodox approaches. Even without officially disbanding, in 1989 following the recording of the album Camminando, each member of the group began working on solo projects

Paolo Marra