By Eyal Hareuveni
Italian, Naples-based tenor sax player Antonio Raia prepared himself for the recording of his debut solo album, «Asylum», for three years. He worked on different breathing techniques and researched different spaces before settled on a huge wooden hall, Filangeri Asylum (1,000 square meters), a former dining hall in the middle of Naples, where he and his partner in crime, recording engineer Renato Fiorito, placed 10 microphones. The album was recorded with no effects or overdubs, and Raia dedicates this album to refugees and other poor people, for them the asylum is actually a home.
Raia frames the emotional atmosphere of this short album, only 30 minutes, with few well-known songs. He begins with a fragile and fractured abstraction of the popular Neapolitan song «Torna a Surriento». The following original pieces deepen this contemplative and vulnerable approach, characterized by a highly resonant sound that stresses Raia’s rich sonic spectrum, ranging from soft breaths and whispers, passionate loud shouts that fill the huge space and disciplined exercises in circular breathing, all suggest a deep and strong melodic veins.
Later he offers surprising covers of the Italian song «Dicitencello vuje» (translated into English as «Just Say I Love Her», and covered by many, including Tony Bennett and Nina Simone) and Erroll Garner’s «Misty», but reaches the emotional climax of this album in his own beautiful ballad «To Giulia». All these pieces emphasizes even more his compassionate perspective, or as Raia puts it: «looking forward to welcome and share freedom with a world in need of it, now more than ever».