Limelight: Chat Noir

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“When we were teenagers we were listening to albums by King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin,” recalls Chat Noir’s keyboard player Michele Cavallari. “When we started playing in local bands, we did cover versions of that kind of material, but it was jazz that really caught our attention, and that was what inspired us to start stretching our ideas.”

For the last 12 years Cavallari, bassist Luca Fogagnolo and drummer Giuliano Ferrari have worked as a trio and although they started out playing standard jazz tunes, over the course of five albums, their sound has evolved and mutated into something that’s not always easily classifiable. “We drew upon the things we’d listened to when we were younger like prog rock, funk and so on,” explains Cavallari. “When you apply all those influences to our jazz vocabulary, I suppose it helped us take things further on a musical level.”

Although they were initially based in their native Rome, when Cavallari and Fogagnolo accepted employment opportunities in Boston and Berlin respectively, the trio’s continued existence might have been threatened were it not for the internet. Creating an album completely from scratch without even being in the same room was a first for the group who prided themselves on years of close-knit interplay. “You have to know each other really well to be able to pull something like this off,” says Cavallari. “It was challenging but we were able to do it because of our long-standing friendship.” Their file-sharing produced an intriguing blendof Eastern-sounding instrumentation and scales combined with headlong grooves and curious smatterings of electronics. There are times when it sounds like opposing worlds – one ancient, the other modern – being forged together. “Yes, that’s the idea,” confirms the keyboard player. “We were recording alone and so the influences from each individual player were quite distinctive. Luca is most influenced by Eastern sounds and philosophy. I’m more into electronic music, our drummer Giuliano is more into processing the acoustic instruments. The sound is like separate worlds being mixed together and bridged in a musically coherent way. Electronics are really important to our sound as they allow us to craft things in post-production that enhance the flavour of our tunes. Recording in this way felt really natural even though it was completely different to anything we’d done in the past.” Cavallari isn’t at all worried if their sound alienates the more traditionally conservative jazz fan. “We started out as a jazz trio but from the very beginning we were trying to move away from that,” he says. “We wanted to create something that was new and interesting. The idea behind Elec3cities and the group is to encompass many other musical worlds that it takes us far from what some would call jazz. So if people think we’re not jazz then that’s fine by us. We’re allergic to labels anyway!”