[Monday Note No. 154] The Quartetto Cetra was a fantastic vocal group active for about half a century, from the 1940s to the 1990s. The group was inspired by American vocal ensembles, mixing jazz with more typically Italian vocalism. Let us analyse I ricordi della sera.
Traditionally, Italian music is music of great soloists, not vocal groups. American music, on the other hand, had a more collective imprint, after all jazz itself began as ensemble music.
The most famous American vocal groups of the 1940s were the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots, but the tradition continued with the famous Platters and beyond, for example the Jackson Five from whom pop singer Michael Jackson’s career started.
American groups usually consisted of either male or female voices, whereas the Quartetto Cetra is a mixed line-up, with the three men Felice Chiusano (Fondi, 1922 – Milan, 1990), Giovanni ‘Tata’ Giacobetti (Rome, 1922 – Rome, 1988) and Virgilio Savona (Palermo, 1919 – Milan, 2009), and the only female voice of Lucia Mannucci (Bologna, 1920 – Milan, 2012).
Due to differences in register and timbre, it is inevitably the female voice that often emerges. This is also what happens in I ricordi della sera, where part of the theme is sung as a group, with wonderful harmonisation, and part is left to the solo voice of Lucia Mannucci.
The song is clearly inspired by the great jazz ballads. In the opening verse we notice that the melody touches the 9th of Am7 (note B, measure 2), and again the 9th of Gmaj7 (note A, measure 3). The harmony is also jazz-inspired, as we recognise from the chromatic passages Fdim7 Em7 Eb7 Dmaj7, or F7 Em7 Eb7.
I ricordi della sera also resembles a jazz standard in its AABC form, where actually [C ] is a variation and extension of [A]. Part [B], however, is very different from a normal jazz standard, both in terms of its duration of only four measures and in terms of its content.
In any jazz standard, part [B] lasts eight measures or more and breaks up the song with a modulation, or at least with a different melodic idea. In this case, on the other hand, the four measures of [B] do not add anything new, especially from a harmonic point of view, since they repeat the same chords already heard in part [A].
I Ricordi della sera (Memories of the Evening), is a song from 1961 and was the final theme song of the TV programme Giardino d`inverno, hosted by the Cetra Quartet. The band can be considered without exaggeration the greatest Italian vocal group ever, but the four musicians were also capable of performing in television, theatre, and they even worked as voice actors.
Artists of the highest quality and endowed with a fantastic humour, they were able to use music for wonderful cabaret pieces, among them Nella vecchia fattoria. Even in comic pieces, their music never lost an exquisite elegance, a refinement that remains unsurpassed to this day.
Until next Monday!
Download the lead sheet of I ricordi della sera del Quartetto Cetra