Antonio Forcione and Adriano Adewale at Assembly George Square, 23 August
Plenty in the George Square Assembly One crowd tonight have seen guitarist (and 2001 ‘Best Spirit of the Fringe Award’ winner) Antonio Forcione and his “soul brother,” percussionist Adriano Adewale, at Festivals past. But it’s the duo’s first night in Edinburgh this season, and they have 15 years and six albums of shared material to work into an hour-long set. “We have no idea what stage we are … how much time we have,” Forcione says, with perhaps five minutes left. Someone in the audience shouts down, “You’ve got about another” – and the applause at this suggests we all wish it was true.
Consummate performers with what might be a telepathic relationship, the duo do a dexterous dance through originals, new material, and a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Grapevine,” which final guitar peg-bend portamento is just devastating (“If you know the words,” Forcione says … “please don’t”). With the gravity of world-class instrumentalists, they also have that democratic (though hardly common) purely musical sense, Forcione and Adewale possessing like J Dilla, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Orpheus, the ability to pull pregnant sounds out of any tactile or tensile surface, giving us music, giving each other the essence of language.
At one point, your correspondent begins blinking rapidly. Still, it appears Forcione has seven fingers on his right hand; Adewale plays a tambourine so quickly it looks like he’s under a strobe light. A good match because Forcione’s guitar is so percussive and Adewale’s percussion is so polyphonic, together they sound at once like a five-piece band and like a single musician, Maha Saraswati having way too much fun in a room full of instruments – which tonight includes a harp-guitar, a surprisingly versatile clay pot, what looks like the world’s largest coconut halved and used for bass sounds, and a three litre water bottle, which Adewale lets drip into a hand-crafted bowl.
Surprising even to trained ears, Forcione and Adewale use no loop delays – their use of electronics ends at masterful mic placement and mixing. “Everything is played in front of you, now,” Forcione says. “A little improvisation, no additives, no sugar.” Unlisted among these ingredients are virtuosity, delicacy, playfulness. The result is pure joy – the Spirit of the Fringe.