The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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It’s all about jazz

Marie Benoît Sunday, 14 April 2024, 09:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Singer composer Frank Bonnici had a very successful concert in January. His fans wanted to hear more of him and so he returned, by special request,  last month this time at the Sala dei Cavalieri, Palazzo de la Salle.

When there is an event at the Sala dei cavalieri, I try not to miss it simply because I have a special affection for this palazzo but particularly  for the Sala dei Cavalieri.

Lately I discovered, thanks to an article by Toni Sant, Experiencing Palazzo de la Salle's Sala Dei Cavalieri as a Simulacrum in the Easter issue of Treasures of Malta who writes: "While the ceiling decorations in this room within Palazzo de la Salle and some of the painted walls date back to the 18th century the four main paintings within the room  are early 20th century copies of full length portraits by Antoine de Favray (1706-1798) depicting prominent Grand Masters of the Order of St John: Philippe Villiers de L'isle Adam, who moved the Knights of Malta in 1530; Valletta city founder Jean Parisot de Valette; Ramon Perellos, who acquired the building for use by the knights, such as de la Salle brothers; and Manuel Pinto de Fonseca the great champion of the Baroque style of architecture and art that dominates Malta's imagination to this day." What surprised me is that the full length portraits of Grand Masters Pinto de Fonseca and Jean de Valette's  are copies made by Domenico Micallef (after Antoine de Favray.) I wanted to share this information with readers as it came as a surprise and I  found it fascinating. Domenico Micallef is the name behind the copies,  an excellent artist in his own right.

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So it was in this splendid ambience  that pianist Frank Bonnici, on a Blunther piano, percussionist Joe Camilleri (Bibi senior) and Diccon Copper, on the double bass, entertained us that evening. I cannot call myself a Jazz enthusiast. But I left the concert quite happy and was once again impressed with the playing and the enthusiasm of the three musicians.

It was a varied programme starting off with Duke Ellington's Sentimental Mood which he composed in 1935.

Very much of a favourite was Autumn Leaves with lyrics by Jacques Prevert. It was featured for the first time in the film Les Portes de la Nuit (1946) starring Yves Montand.

The lyrics convey a sense of nostalgia and the passing of time. The fallen leaves are compared to faded love and memories. There are few who are not touched by this beautiful chanson, especially as sung by Montand.

A Night in Tunisia composed by Trumpter Dizzie Gilliespie was ground breaking in the world of Jazz. I can't say I particularly like it.

My Favourite things, the popular song from the Rogers & Hammerstein The Sound of Music sung so very memorably by Julie Andrews, enunciating every single word. She was 362 weeks in the charts: Musical theatre at its best. If only our performers could understand the importance of diction. As to 'my favourite things', one of them is music that I am familiar with. In fact anything that I am familiar with. The new is no longer for me.

Spain composed by Chick Corea is so Spanish and so familiar. Chick Corea won 27 Grammy awards and was nominated 37 times for the award. He is of southern Italian descent. His father, a trumpeter, introduced him to the piano at the tender age of four years.

Henry Mancini's theme from "Hatari!" is one of his many memorable compositions. The theme is from the 1962 adventure-romantic comedy film Hatari! directed by Howard Hawks. Mancini, known for his unique blend of jazz and orchestral music, created a soundtrack that perfectly captured the spirit of the movie, which is set in Africa and revolves around a group of adventurers capturing wild animals for zoos.

The most famous piece from the Hatari! soundtrack is undoubtedly the "Baby Elephant Walk," which is known for its catchy, playful melody that mimics the quirky, light-hearted movements of baby elephants.

The "Theme from 'Hatari!'" itself is a testament to Mancini's talent for crafting atmospheric music that complements the film's setting and action. It's a piece that combines various musical elements to create a sense of adventure and excitement. It was beautifully played by our musicians.

I like the singer Sting. Love his voice and he certainly made a hit with his Englishman in New York:

I don't drink coffee, I take tea, my dear
I like my toast done on one side
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I'm an Englishman in New York

And so the enthusiastic musicians went on, playing one piece after another, Waltz for Debby, Orfeo Nero, So What, Pick up the Pieces... and Frank played his own composition A Night in Branik from the documentary Piano Cross roads. Enthusiasm never flagged, either on the side of the musicians nor the side of the audience who, at the end of the concert crowded round the musicians to thank and congratulate them. Frank has certainly built up a fan base in Malta.


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