Baroque music with drum solos. Who can ask for anything more? To most, Baroque music (Bach, Handel, Vivaldi), is somewhat stuffy, unemotional music that chugs steadily along until it (gratefully) ends. Lorenzo Arruga, originator of this project, knows that when this early music was written, much of it was improvised and dynamic, concepts that were not easily conveyed in the limited musical notation that was then in its infancy. Inspired by a story which involved Vivaldi, some friends, an enthusiastic neophyte percussionist, and musical improvisation, Arruga enlisted ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo to join a small group of friends to capture the improvisational spirit of the original baroque performances. For this adventure, Arruga chose passages from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and the operas "Ottone in Villa" and "Orlando Furioso", exploring the improvisational possibilities in these pieces with a great sense of imagination, while remaining true to the intent of Vivaldi. The result is a fresh way to look at the music of this genre. Though one might expect the drumming to stick out like a penguin at Headwaters Park, Lombardo's playing is always appropriate, ranging from tastefully restrained to full out drum soloing. "La tempesta D'estate" is a joyous romp between oboe and flute with a steady, excited flurry of even-tempo drum beats in the background. Later, organs, harpsichords, and vocals are thrown into the mix, adding to the aural experience. At times, the music is almost jazz-like in it's free style, openly capturing the carefree mood of the participants and the music they are playing while elsewhere the music is true to the original notation, more subdued but with unexpected flourishes. While this disc could easily have become a mere novelty recording, the enthusiasm, creativity, and professionalism of all involved have produced instead a work of great beauty and strength, one that is sure to spend many hours in my own CD player.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, June 1999.