Agorà came to life in 1974 in the province of Ancona, from the ashes of a band called Oz Master Magnus Ltd. The name of the band refers to a central public space in ancient Greek city-states and the literal meaning of the word is gathering place or assembly. The first line up featured Roberto Bacchiocchi (keyboards, vocals), Ovidio Urbani (sax), Renato Gasparini (guitar, vocals), Paolo Colafrancesco (bass, vocals) and Mauro Mencaroni (drums, vocals), all in love with jazz rock and influenced by bands such as Weather Report and Perigeo. Thanks to a good live activity and to a manager who spotted them, in 1975 they had the chance to play live at the Montreux Jazz Festival and signed a deal with Atlantic Records. Their performance in Switzerland took place on July 7, 1975: a set of about thirty minutes that was entirely recorded and later released on their debut album entitled Live In Montreux. The quality of the recording is good enough to allow you to enjoy the talent of a young, promising band playing a jazz rock sprinkled with many Mediterranean flavours.
The opener “Penetrazione” (Penetration) starts softly by a guitar arpeggio. The atmosphere is dreamy, soaring vocals used as an instrument and a pulsing rhythm section take you away on a journey through the Mediterranean Sea where you can find a place to cry your blues under the moon… Well, all in all, everyone has a blues to cry!
|Serra San Quirico, pic from www.comune.serrasanquirico.an.it|
Then comes the long, complex “Serra San Quirico”. This piece was divided into two parts on account of the vinyl space available in those days and unfortunately the division persists also on the CD reissue where there’s no need to switch from side A to side B. The title of this piece refers to the village of Serra San Quirico, in the province of Ancona where in the seventies the band had their rehearsal room, in the sacristy of a disused church, by kind permission of the local priest. It’s the place where Agorà’s music was born from endless jam sessions and then shaped, refined and chiselled until the right balance to convey and stir emotions was reached. There are many changes in mood and atmosphere: to the nervous first part follow a calmer middle section and a finale in crescendo and there is many room for inspired solos...
Next comes “Acqua celeste” (Blue water), a calm piece but with many currents whirling under the surface and a subtle melancholic vein. It leads to the tasty closer “L’orto di Ovidio” (Ovidio’s garden): according to an interview with Ovidio Urbani, the title refers to the fact that the inspiration for this track came almost out of the blue after a pause where the musicians went out to pick up and eat some cherries from a tree in a nearby garden…
On the whole, a very good work that captures the energy and freshness of the band on stage. Moreover, the album was enhanced by the particular art cover by Italian artist Cesare Monti portraying a tree on the crossroad between via Tortona and via Savona in Milan: on the original version of the LP the tree can be raised and has a small stand on the back making of this album a very rare collector’s item.
You can listen to the complete album HERE
Agorà: Live In Montreux (1975). Other opinions:
Conor Fynes: Live in Montreux suggests plenty of potential and creativity. The last few minutes of this record are about as smooth as jazz fusion gets; I'm really left to wonder how far they might have gone if Agora had stuck together longer… (You can read the complete review HERE)
More info about the band: