Antonio Forcione Quartet Assembly George Square

A friend highly recommended this Italian guitarist, I only wish I’d had the recommendation years ago. It seems Antonio Forcione has been coming to Edinburgh for the last twenty years and I’ve really been missing out on something special. In the past I’ve always avoided anything with the word jazz in it, convinced for years it was not my thing. Well, if this is jazz I must be a late convert – Forcione’s music is a fabulous mix of styles with Latin, Italian folk and other world music influences.

He has released a total of 17 albums, the latest being “Sketches of Africa”, which was influenced by his travels to South Africa and Zimbabwe. They play three tracks from this album as it is the one they “enjoy playing most” – “Tarifa”, the cracking pace of “Madiba’s Jive”- a tribute to Nelson Mandela, and the slower paced “Stay Forever” with its cello lead and hypnotic rhythms.
Forcione is a virtuoso acoustic guitarist and the other three musicians in the quartet are equally talented – Jenny Adejayan from Nigeria/Grenada on cello, and Brazilians Matheus Nova on bass guitar and Anselmo Netto on percussion and mandolin. The set starts off with Forcione’s unique version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and then takes a trip through some of his albums, notably “Sketches of Africa” but also shows off his Italian roots, for example with “Tarantella”, an energetic dance to get rid of the effects of the bite of the spider. The percussionist has a huge array of instruments at his disposal, he even has bells wrapped round his legs and dances energetically around to make full use of them.

The backdrop is a large screen onto which are projected Antonio’s own prints – as well as his musical talent he is also an accomplished artist – and his drawings are fascinating images of big and bold figures and designs.

The hour is over all too soon and for an encore, we get “Slap and Tickle”, a jaunty tribute to filmmaker Fellini who “captured the Italian spirit more than anyone else”. The duel between the mandolin and guitar is captivating and it’s great to see a band so obviously enjoying each other’s company.

I liked it so much I bought one of his CDs after the show and haven’t stopped playing it yet. Here’s hoping he makes it 21 visits next year.

Irene Brownlee