The Wire

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy: New Album


The Italian guitarist and bandleader Nicola Conte has recorded his first album for the legendary, recently re-established MPS records. Conte has brought with him an ensemble of stars including Gianluca Petrella (trombone), trumpeter Theo Croker, saxophonists Logan Richardson and Magnus Lindgren, and singer Zara McFarlane. Recorded in Bari, Italy and Johannesburg, South Africa, “Let Your Light Shine On”is a cohesive and powerful work of art that crosses the border between soul and spiritual Afro-jazz.

Most of the musicians hate to have to label their music. Nevertheless, Nicola Conte makes the attempt: “You could call it spiritual or cosmic Afro-jazz. I could also agree with calling it Afro-soul.”

For his new album, “Let Your Light Shine On”, this Italian DJ, producer, guitarist, and bandleader has casually interwoven soul and grooves pulsing with the beat and breath of Africa. In doing so, Conte combined elements that seemingly do not belong together.

This innovative jazz revivalist has always been open to sounds of every sort and color. Born in 1964, Conte formed the artist collective Fez in the early ´90s in his native city of Bari, produced jazz and modern electronic-oriented Bossa Nova, and recorded film scores. Conte’s eighth album conveys his interest in spiritual deceleration (“We should not be hemmed in by materialism. We need new perspectives!”). At the same time, his music has a political slant.

“I´m interested in the Afrocentric approach that such artists as John Coltrane, and such labels as Strata-East carried forward in the sixties and seventies,” this obsessed record collector enthused. “People dealt with the problems of that time. This may well have greater relevance today than ever before – many problems have only gotten worse.”

“Let Your Light Shine On” is Conte’s debut on the legendary MPS label, which has recently resumed releasing new recordings. “For me, when it comes to European labels, MPS has always been leading the way,” the Italian said. “Jazz Meets the World on MPS – that was their motto. It wasn´t about exploiting trends, it was about genuine artistic expression.”