02/12/2013 08:52 GMT | Updated 30/01/2014 05:59 GMT

Gig Exclusive: Trio Valore Tears Up the Rule Book in Milan

It is here in Milan, far north in the Bel Paese [Italy, the "beautiful country"], that a cultural pragmatism has attracted those of a more refined musical streak.


And it is at Biko, a club not far from the throng of the city centre, that Trio Valore has convened to play to a Milanese crowd intent on devouring live music as would they their mammas' pasta e fagioli. It's a crowd of stylists who want to dance, and they do.

With Steve White behind the drum kit and Damon Minchella on Fender jazz bass, it's a rhythm section unsurpassed which alternates between r'n'b, funk, rock and jazz in a furious live set, playing the type of grooves that no doubt the legendary fusion masters Larry and Fonce Mizell would have loved to have produced. It's a quality of musicianship from a bygone era, right here and right now.

Between them, White (above, centre) and Minchella (left) have under their belts decades of professional studio playing and touring with the likes of Paul Weller, The Who, Ocean Colour Scene, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Amy Winehouse and Oasis, their muscular sound gilded by the fluid Hammond organ motifs of Justin Shearn (right).

This is the latest gig in a short tour of northern Italy which has seen the band play to ardent crowds in Florence and Verona, an ardour explicable by dint of this band comprising the best engine room in the business. Tonight they have brought the British rock statement and blended it with a continental jazz aesthetic. Tricky to pigeonhole, yes, but refreshing to hear.

When, earlier this year, the trio was asked to play for the 10th anniversary of Italian label Record Kicks, the ensuing tour drew fans from around a country which regularly hosts rock, pop and jazz festivals; historically, therefore, the Italian ear is an educated one.

And tonight on the final Saturday of November, unsurprisingly, Biko is packed. The band is abroad, the sound freer, less restricted.

With clarity and impact the watchwords of the evening, Steve White's three-minute drum solo on the little-known Paul Weller instrumental That Spiritual Feeling lent a glimpse of what it must have been like to watch Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich play live, while Damon Minchella improvised effortlessly around carefully nailed-down bass lines.


"Italian gigs are the best," says Damon. "People here absolutely love what we're doing."

The trio has recorded an EP, with the Dutch brass section who played on Paul Weller's Studio 150 album helping embellish things. "We've got an original composition called #Liars&Cheaters, which is dedicated to the music business in general," says Steve. "There's also a tribute to Jon Lord, who recently passed away, with a track called Spanish Blues. It's a 3-track EP which will come out in March 2014 on vinyl and download.

"I love playing in Italy. I think the enthusiasm here is infectious. Italian radio stations play a lot of soul, acid jazz and Sixties music which is quite unusual because you never hear it in the UK. We're already booked to play in Rome in March, and at more festivals for next year, so it's all growing really nicely. I've just got to watch my weight with all the Italian food!"

The Alps have been crossed, the audience conquered by the pristine nature of music played live and with verve. But the lesson learned tonight is that if you want to listen to good music, you have to seek it out in the place where it was born: the clubs. British audiences must therefore return to those intimate venues that exist the length and breadth of the country, instead of remaining afflicted by an apathy they share with record companies too numerous to mention.

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Photographs by George Stavrou / @GStavrouFoto