MARIO POLETTI – One Man One Mandolin (own label)

One Man One MandolinI’ve reviewed two albums by the Teres Aoutes String Band – Italian mountain music with a strong sense of fun and some high-class musicianship, led by the sound of Mario Poletti’s mandolin. All of that is also present in One Man One Mandolin, Poletti’s new album.

It’s slightly more than one mandolin, Poletti plays a mix of electric and acoustic mandolin electric mandola and…”hand clapping, tap foot, snap finger”. But that, as far as I can hear, really is all in terms of band/orchestration. Before you read any further, click on the link below to ‘Autumn Leaves’ – Joseph Kosma’s jazz standard which has been tackled by all kinds of jazz musicians and sung (lyrics added by Jacques Prévert or Johnny Mercer) by as long a list of the greats. There is no way this should work played by one man and one mandolin, so have a listen. It really does.

Which reinforces just how good Poletti is, as is only right since he is part of the Jazz School Torino. The album has other jazz tracks – Joe Zawinul’s ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’; Charlie Parker’s ‘Billie’s Bounce’; Victor Young’s ‘My Foolish Heart’; Thelonius Monk’s ‘Blue Monk’; W. C. Handy’s ‘St Louis Blues’.

Is ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ jazz? Probably not but there’s an interesting fuzzy mandolin version on the album. How about ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (The Girl from Ipanema)? Bossa Nova or Jazz? I don’t know but there’s a lovely version of this on the album.

To bring us a little more up to date Cindy Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ works surprisingly well as a mandolin song. My favourite track, though, is Stevie Wonder’s ‘Sir Duke’, which literally has me tapping my feet and playing percussion on the desk as I play the track. Briliant.

There are two other tracks – ‘Noise#1’ and ‘Noise#2’, both written by Poletti. I was too young for the UFO club but if you look at the early films of Pink Floyd or, from my generation, listen to some of Tangerine Dream’s music which touches the same vibe (it’s the only word that will do), then Poletti has written a couple of modern mandolin-sourced tracks that come from the same place. Because they are tracks 4 and 8 on an album with twelve tracks, it makes for a much better listening experience – they intersperse what might otherwise be too quaint an album and confirm it as a rather fascinating one.

Jazz standards, hypnotica, bossa nova, and a stand-out version of ‘Sir Duke’ all played on the mandolin (and very little else). If that seems a tad unbelievable, just listen to ‘Autumn Leaves’ again.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’ – live in lockdown: