Paolo Conte: Razmataz

Album Notes

The songs on this CD are part of a bigger project, one that Paolo Conte cherished for years, and eventually achieved in a variety of manifestations. According to the liner notes, for three decades Conte dreamed about writing -- and intermittently worked on -- a musical about Paris in the 1920s. An amateur painter as well as a famous musician, Conte was particularly attracted to this period since it saw the coming together of the most important avant-garde movements of the 20th century, as well as American jazz music, all in the city of Paris. Conte himself wrote the entire score, texts, and dialogues, and designed the costumes and sets. Razmataz was first staged as a musical in 1989, the songs appeared in the CD format in this 2000 release, and a DVD followed in 2001. The DVD is considered the definitive version, a multimedia project that includes music (both these songs and incidental instrumental pieces), 1,800 illustrations by Conte, a narrative voice-over, monologues, and dialogues. Conte's love for both French culture and American swing music is more than evident throughout his oeuvre, and Razmataz constitutes the ultimate tribute. This is so much the case that Conte's own voice takes a secondary role to his influences. In fact, Razmataz can be a bit disconcerting as a Paolo Conte album, since he only sings in five of the 18 songs. Furthermore, but for one brief piece -- the marvelous Bellini parody of "Pasta 'Diva'" -- there are no songs in Italian. All the material is in French or English, and performed by a cast of talented singers in a wide variety of styles reflecting the cultural diversity and effervescence of the period. Razmataz is a loving, meticulous time capsule where java, musette, milonga, French chanson, Italian opera, and American big-band swing are re-created in their full splendor. While none of these individual songs has the depth or relevance of Conte's best work, the music in this album is undeniably exquisite. One can only imagine that this collection of pieces will grow to be considered as an impressive work of art, particularly in its much hailed multimedia platform. Razmataz is a labor of love and an atypical album in Conte's career, but one that showcases the many talents and interests of an exceptionally gifted artist. ~ Mariano Prunes


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