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Italian, Stockholm-based double bass player-composer Ilaria Capalbo’s first album as a bandleader tells the story of the ancient and once-powerful North African metropolis of Karthago, ruled by the legendary Queen Dido but doomed by its proximity to the Roman Empire. Capalbo is known as the co-leader of the Italian trio Kósmos, a member of Swedish sax player Fredrik Nordström’s Dolores band (Nordström plays in this album, mixed, mastered and produced it and released it via his label, Bluenord Records) and of the European trio of Japanese pianist Chihiro Yamanaka. «Karthago» was recorded at BAS Bandhagen in Stockholm in April 2021.

Capalbo composed eight pieces, rooted in the jazz legacy but leaving enough space for her band to improvise on her compositional ideas that tell the mythical legend of Karthago. It is a musical story of resilience, courage and vulnerability, of the courage to build things from scratch and pursue a vision, against all odds. She is enjoying the company of sax players Nordström (on tenor and baritone saxes and alto flute) and Thomas Backman (on alto sax and the clarinet), guitarist Andreas Hourdakis and drummer Fredrik Rundqvist. Cornetist Tobias Wiklund and trombonist Mats Äleklint join her band on the opening piece «Belóved».

Capalbo’s compositions are connected as a long suite. All tell detailed and often sensual,  contemplative and harmonious stories, based on rich, melodic themes fleshed out with short solos of her band’s musicians, except of guitarist Hourdakis who converses closely with Capalbo (check out their touching duet on «Mare Nostrum, Our Sea», the ancient name of the Mediterranean sea). Capalbo herself leads her band with natural command and opts for a collective, layered sound of the band that relies on the strong but lush rhythmic backbone of hers. She concludes this impressive suite with the moving, uplifting melody of «What Remains of These Days».

Simply beautiful.

Eyal Hareuveni

Ilaria Capalbo (b), Thomas Backman (as, cl), Fredrik Nordström (ts, bs, afl), Andreas Hourdakis (g), Fredrik Rundqvist (dr), Tobias Wiklund (cor), Mats Äleklint (tb)

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