Roman keyboard master, Alessandro Di Benedetti is the driving force behind the Inner Prospekt releases of which this is, by my reckoning, the eleventh, succeeding 2020's Canvas One which also came with an instrumental version. Benedetti is known principally as a member of Mad Crayon and for his significant contributions to The Samurai Of Prog, but on these Inner Prospekt releases he gives full rein to his own personal artistic flow.
Benedetti has always worn his influences on his sleeve, to the extent that the first Inner Prospekt release was titled Dreaming Of Tony Banks and while there is much that will delight traditionalists it is very much to the composer's credit, and those musicians who accompany him that they imbue this album with freshness and vivacity like a freshly polished diamond. From the inevitable flights of keyboard virtuosity, to Benedetti's surprising Bowie-esque vocals, this is a collection of treats from start to finish. The mood switches effortlessly from expansive symphonic soundscapes to urgent, sweaty jazz-tinged extemporisations, topped with flourishes that would get a nod of approval from the aforementioned Mr Tony Banks. The opening track, Glimpse captures the fragility of ephemeral existence and fleeting, missed opportunity. This bittersweet introduction setting the scene for a majestic epic track Soul Of A Hundred Lives, a classic lesson in weaving complex structures, interlacing classic prog synthesiser with frantic jazz-rock infused improvisations, a classic track in its own right and one which deserves the attention of any prog rock fan. Why Me? injects welcome whimsy and musical humour, well-suited to Benedetti's vocal, as is Abby's Escape a lovely excursion into storytelling and characterisation with its escalating choral lines, joyously accented by keyboard flourishes. The whole subsides into a solo piano outro, wistful as a dream which foreshadows the pastoral opening of White Skies, another attention grabbing epic, which manages to mix classic prog tropes and jazz infusions, keyboard and guitar solos vying for the honours and rounding the piece off with a triumphant flourish. Ignoring the bonus track (The Queen Of Clubs) The main album closes with another long track The Knight And The Ghost which thankfully traces a medieval theme without descending into hey-nonny-no folksiness. The string section is used to particularly good effect on this track bringing out a range of tones and colours complementing the electric guitar and keyboard and ending the main fare with a longing wistful note. The final bonus track stands rightfully on its own, as a blues-tinged jazz saxophone piece, although it does a good job of bookending the complete piece.
Inner Prospekt is the vision of a master craftsman who has used his canvas to brilliant effect, superbly aided by a sympathetic cohort of fellow musicians who put in an outstanding effort. Whether there is more in this vein, I am unsure, but I certainly wouldn't say no - these canvasses will hopefully build into a fine exhibition. Canvas Two can also claim another accolade - no mean feat in these times - of superb value. Visit the Bandcamp link above and you will find a download for 5 Euros - 12 for the CD. You can't go wrong with that.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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