Augusto Martelli's 'Black Sound from White People' Is '70s Italy at Its Best — Just Ignore That Title

BY Brock ThiessenPublished Oct 23, 2020

First things first — Black Sound from White People is an unfortunate album title, especially in the year 2020. But considering the title was thought up way back in early '70s Italy — and that it was no doubt coming from a place of genuine respect — it's one that should be forgiven. After all, Augusto Martelli's album is definitely one worth celebrating.

For many, Black Sound from White People marks the high-point for Martelli, who rose to fame as a composer, conductor, arranger and TV presenter. And while Martelli may not be have reached the same great heights as some of his contemporaries in creatively charged 1970s Italy, this album stands tall as top-notch piece of jazz-funk fusion of the sleaziest order.

Originally released in 1972 by Philips, Black Sound from White People has very much become a cult record over the years, with originals now costing collectors more than a few pretty pennies. So it makes total sense that the tastemakers at Sonor Music Editions would now want to step up to shine a light on a largely forgotten gem.

Right from the get-go with the jawdropper of an opener, "Loco Love Motion," Black Sound from White People packs quite the groove, weaving together swirling layers of Latin-flavoured tropicalia, Far East exotica, meat-and-potato funk and some high-minded jazz. With an airtight backing band that includes the likes of Tullio De Piscopo, Giancarlo Barigozzi and Pino Presti, the album rarely makes a misstep, with the floating, psych-minded flute lines often hitting a serious sweet spot. And though the record is largely instrumental, mantra-like spoken word pieces arise now and again to throw in a bit of extra variety.

It's no wonder several tracks from this record and others by Martelli frequently appeared on the esteemed Easy Tempo comps over the years. After all, Black Sound from White People recalls some of the best "island albums" by the likes of Piero Piccioni, Armando Trovajoli and Piero Umiliani, where a certain easiness can be found in the recordings that takes you somewhere far, far away and yet a place so familiar.

Most importantly, Black Sound from White People sounds absolutely timeless — even if its title is not — bringing just as much fire in 2020 as it must have in 1972.

Order Black Sound from White People through Sonor Music Editions.

(Sonor Music Editions)

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