One of the highlights of a performance by Alla Boara, percussionist Anthony Taddeo’s jazz-meets-Italian-folk-music project, is “Mamma Mia Dammi Cento Lire.” It’s a musical setting of conversation between a young woman, wheedling 100 lire from her mother so that she can go to America to start a new life, and her mother who warns that if she leaves her village the feckless girl will drown when her ship sinks. All this is set to an earworm of a dancing melody. The words, brought to vivid life by Amanda Powell, a superb singing actress, have the sly worldliness and teasing insinuation of opera buffa.
But the real subject of the song is the tension between tradition and adventure, restlessness and superstition, the old ways and the promise of an exciting unknown.
It’s not hard to know on which side of the argument Taddeo stands. What began as a graduate school composition exercise has blossomed into one of northeast Ohio’s most heartwarming—and toe-tapping—post-pandemic cultural success stories.
New Record. . .
Every Alla Boara concert is a celebration of sorts but Wednesday evening’s show at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium is a celebration in fact. On Friday, the band will release their second recording, Work and Song, recorded live at BOP STOP in July 2023. I wrote about the two-day sessions in this preview, noting the audaciousness and the risks of recording both audio and video before a live audience, but all that dissolved in the electric atmosphere that prevailed in the sold-out Hingetown club.
The concert was electrifying and the record is terrific (full disclosure: I was so taken with it that Anthony asked me to write the album notes, an offer I couldn’t refuse). It drops Friday, Feb. 26 but copies will be available at the concert as will new Alla Boara merch.
The release of Work & Song is a signal event on the trajectory of a band that seems on its way to bigger things. A late-winter tour will take the band to Pittsburgh, Toronto, the Hudson Valley and Boston, evidence that Alla Boara is now an export good with a proud northeast Ohio DOC.
. . . New Voices
But first things first. A gig in Gartner is a prestige gig, too and given the occasion, the restlessly inventive Taddeo has a new wrinkle in store. To the core group that also includes guitarist Dan Bruce, accordionist Clay Colley, bassist Ian Kinnaman and fiery trumpet phenom Tommy Lehman, Wednesday’s concert will feature special guests Patrick Graney on percussion and Caitlin Hedge on violin.
Graney joined saxophonist Chris Coles and percussion magus Jamey Haddad as part of an expanded band for the Work & Song sessions, but Hedge will make her Alla Boara debut on the Gartner Auditorium stage.
Taddeo can’t wait. “Violin is an important texture in this music because in Alan Lomax’s recordings there is violin all over the place,” Taddeo said, referring to the field recordings that were his initial inspiration for the band. “We are just stoked to have this opportunity to work with Caitlin, who is so skilled and such a wonderful player, and we are premiering new compositions that exclusively feature violin.”
Ever since we started, my dream was to play in a venue like this, especially in Cleveland.,” Taddeo said. “To get the group to a point that it is playing at a high enough level to deserve to play in these places, it’s quite literally a dream come true.”
A dream, yes, but also a voyage. It seems undeniable that Alla Boara is going places, setting out for new shores. Unsinkable.
Alla Boara wsg Patrick Graney and Caitlin Hedge, Wed. Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m., Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland. Tickets $33–$45, $30–$40 for CMA members available here.