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Picture a post-apocalyptic world where isolated parties from remote parts the globe communicate with each other in empathy and harmony as they share common tales of struggle, survival and hope amid a bleak wasteland. Now imagine the soundtrack of this scenario and you’ve got a grasp on the gritty, groundbreaking music of Naked Truth. Conceived by Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati, Naked Truth also features American trumpeter Cuong Vu, British keyboardist Roy Powell and American drummer Pat Mastelotto. The quartet’s riveting eight-track debut, Shizaru [on RareNoiseRecords], draws from such outpost sources as Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, Bill Laswell, King Crimson, avant-jazz, free-jazz, prog-rock, art-rock and ambient. What makes it wholly unique, however, is the unit’s creativity and chemistry, and what Feliciati calls a “horizontal” approach to the music. He offers, “My intention was to have a ‘band’ project in which everyone has equal input, with me coordinating the music that the members send in from different corners of the world. Instead of a vertical approach, in which one instrument plays the melody or solos while the others provide support in the background, each voice is equal and contributes to the musical conversation as it moves along horizontally.” He continues, “Typically, a song would start with a bass riff or keyboard texture or percussion idea, and then each member would add whatever they felt was needed as the track came around to them; so it was the four of us playing and them improvising on each other’s playing-an eight-hands-on process!”

This synergistic mindset is instantly apparent on the disc-opening “Faster Than an Automatic Door.” Feliciati kicks off one theme with his fuzz bass line, outlined by Powell’s ominous keyboard colors, as Cuong sounds a distant, remorseful second theme. Mastelotto’s subtle entrance defines the funky feel in Feliciati’s part. Suddenly, all four voices come together in an anguished cry, led by Cuong screaming at the top of his range. The peaks and valleys continue, with exploratory stepouts via free form trumpet, drum kit bursts, reverse effects, and reactionary Rhodes. Feliciati’s fretless is the lyrical lynchpin of the simmering “66,” with his percussive pops and sliding harmonics engaging Mastelotto’s slick stickwork.

What starts as an ambient wash with an angular pulse soon transforms into a metallic head-banging riff on the title track, “Shizaru;” Powell delivers a stellar straightahead-savvy solo, to further marinate the mix. The sun, in the form of Mastelotto’s uptempo, multi-layered groove, peaks through the thick haze of Powell and Cuong’s long tones on “Ossimoro.” Guest Fabio Trentini (of the Italian prog-rock band, Le Orme) provides fretless bass and kalimba, and serves as the fifth composer on the tenuous tone poem “Shining Skin Syndrome.”

“Touching Corners” rides a muscular rock groove for Cuong’s ethereal horn flights, contrasted by Powell’s brilliant, gradually-building acoustic piano track-equal parts Keith Jarrett and Cecil Taylor. All hands summon their best sonics on “The Naked,” with the resulting collective collage giving way to individual experimentalism via bubbling Rhodes, muted bass punch, bebop-borne horn hooks and Mastelotto’s meter manipulation. Concluding on a confident note, “Ahkton” breathes at a relaxed pace, with plenty of space surrounding subtle atmospheric contributions from all.

Credit Feliciati for organizing a compatible and combustible all-star contingent. Vietnamese-born, Seattle-based trumpeter Cuong Vu attended the New England Conservatory of Music before making his mark in New York City’s “downtown” scene with such artists as Bill Frisell, Bobby Previte, John Hollenbeck, and recording with Laurie Anderson and David Bowie. In addition, he has toured with Pat Metheny, appearing on the guitarist’s Grammy-winning CDs Speaking of Now and The Way Up. Vu, who regularly fronts his Vu-Tet, has released seven solo sides, including his latest, Leaps of Faith.

Born in England and based in Oslo, Norway, Roy Powell studied piano and composition at Royal Northern College of Music before making a splash with his electric jazz debut disc A Big Sky, in 1994. Powell has amassed such potent credits as Art Farmer, Eddie Daniels, Dave Leibman, Roy Hargrove, Michael Gibbs, Vince Mendoza and saxophone giant Anthony Braxton. His eight solo CDs include his latest, Anthem, with Jacob Young and Jarle Vespestad.

Northern California-born, Austin, Texas-based Pat Mastelotto has fashioned a wildy diverse career, having started on drums at 10 playing pop and rock. Moving to Los Angeles in the mid-’70s, he cracked the session scene recording with the likes of Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates, the Pointer Sisters, Al Jarreau, XTC and the Rembrandts, while serving as a member of Mr. Mister and drumming on the smash hits “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie.” In 1994, he joined the double-trio version of King Crimson, a role he continues along with such side projects as the California Guitar Trio, Stick Men and Tu (with Trey Gunn and Chrysta Bell).

Rome-based Lorenzo Feliciati has been called Italy’s best-kept secret on bass guitar. Choosing bass to join his older brother’s band at age 12, Feliciati absorbed the influences of Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, the Police, and the fusion of Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Steps Ahead-plus such seminal pluckers as Jaco Pastorius, Bakithi Kumalo, Percy Jones and Mick Karn. Following a steady flow of recordings and tours with top Italian pop stars, Feliciati released the first of four solo CDs (including two on upright, with his acoustic project, Wasabi) in 2003. His next electric effort, Frequent Flyer, will drop this summer.

It was after having Vu and Mastelotto guest on his third solo album, plus enlisting Powell for his band at Bass Day 2007 in Manchester that Feliciati sent an e-mail to all three asking about doing a project together. He notes, “They all jumped onboard with their wonderfully fresh, creative concepts. You can feel the enthusiasm that we put into the project.” Powell concurs, “Each of these guys has their own approach to making music, both in their sound and in their playing and writing. I think our strengths come across on the recording because we brought the summation of our individual careers to the table. I’m looking forward to playing some live shows with the band, hopefully in the fall.” As for their musical moniker, Feliciati allows, “The name Naked Truth came to me after listening to the first few songs. My desire was to have a project that was raw and organic, without tricks or disguise, yet at the same time to create something mysterious that draws in the listener.” Mission accomplished; after just a few notes you won’t be able to take your ears off of Naked Truth.

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Naked Truth · Shizaru
Release Date · July 12, 2011

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