In the liner notes for Il Vizio! drummer Marcello Benetti writes, “there’s always a lot of personal meaning in my compositions.” He goes on to credit people like his mother and experiences like his regular trans-Atlantic flights from New Orleans to Italy with inspiring the music on the new album, which takes its name from the Italian word for vice (not as in “strong or bad,” he notes, more like “drinking coffee and wine, smoking and flirting”).
The “personal meaning” here goes deeper than the compositions themselves, though. Benetti’s engaging and accessible mix of march cadences, Eastern influences and shifts in rhythm get complemented and amplified by the audible energy simmering between him and the members of his band, all of whom have contributed regularly to his projects in recent years.
Will Thompson, who forms the other half of Benetti’s improv duo Trapper Keaper, adds a layer of shimmering keys to the breezy and beautiful “Quadroon Girl.” A moment of angular, frenetic bow-work from cellist Helen Gillet, who played on Benetti’s quartet albums, builds on the element of surprise sustained by Benetti’s shifts in mood and tempo on “Flight Connection.” The other members of Benetti’s quartet—trombonist Jeff Albert and Rex Gregory on clarinet, bass clarinet, flute and tenor sax—keep things warm and supple with elongated tones on the breezy “Manu,” while Dave Easley’s steel guitar helps soften and open up certain sections of tunes like “Crawling.” Finally, regular Trapper Keaper guest Mike Dillon’s vibes and tabla work add color and vitality to album highlights like the title track.
In the context of Benetti’s playful approach to composing, the combined energy of seven of the city’s strongest and most creative instrumentalists is a delight—and a whole lot of fun.