It is always fascinating to learn how a band select their moniker. Some names have witty political implications others might be a play on words or sometimes it is the record label which influences the choice of name. But strangely in the case of “OAK” it was the fact that ‘Jerry Cutillo’ (band creator) has a real passion for trees and in particular his favourite tree being the mighty oak. So ‘OAK’ was selected and if considered as an acronym “Jerry then quotes “We transfigured the individual letters to represent: Oscillazioni (Oscillations) Alchemico (Alchemical) Kreative (Kreative) which suits the band’s features very much. That is why we have a very unpronounceable (but original) name for the band”.
Jerry Cutillo from an early age has had a real passion for music which was then ignited even further by the influx of ‘British Progressive Rock Bands’ that were appearing live at the Rome multi-event venue the ‘Palaeur’ not far from where he lived. Jerry quotes “This was my first school of art that pushed me straight into the study of music” Learning to play various instruments such as a double keyboard console organ his sister’s acoustic guitar and his first flute acquired from the trade off his bicycle. Thus creating the birth of an passionate multi-instrumentalist.
Jerry’s first professional band at the age of fifteen was “Albergo Intergalattico Spaziale.” a fairly experimental band with a cosmic bearing. But as the seventies moved on, the music press found disfavour with the over complicated progressive rock music scene. Attention switched to the burgeoning punk scene and a return to the basic and yet aggressive street orientated music. And so it was to the London punk scene that Gerry turned to complete his musical apprenticeship. But the hard work commenced on his return to Rome undertaking the dedicated study of flute, keyboards and guitar and at the same time carrying out musical research whilst developing and composing various kinds of music for the media. Such experiences together with his passion for the theatre stood him in good stead for his future planned ‘Progressive Rock’ concept based extravaganzas. Such as his 2018 rock opera about ‘Giordano Bruno’.
His penchant for producing lavish conceptual productions continues in the footsteps of ‘Giordano Bruno’. So here for review is Jerry’s new epic entitled ‘Nine Witches under a Walnut Tree. A story’ based on the legend of the witches of ‘Benevento’ a place known as ‘The Town of the Witches’ and indeed a place where the atmospheric presence of a strange and magical aura is still felt by many. A town that has subsequently inspired poets and artists for centuries in their writings and art of the macabre. Jerry now joins that throng!
From a conceptual perspective ‘Nine Witches’ has a far more complex story line than ‘Giordano Bruno’ and could certainly be a struggle for many, that is understanding what is actually happening in relation to the lyrics. Apart from one single track that is in German, the lyrics are sung mostly in Italian, which in one respect needs to be applauded. However, unless intended for the Italian market alone, a story based concept album sung in Italian might have an impact on its commercial interest worldwide. Hopefully though the music aspect alone will win through.
There is a wealth of diverse instrumental charm embedded within the body of the music, such charm revealing itself more and more with each successive play. Particularly nice at the beginning of the album are the passages of strumming mandolin and then more frequently beautiful measures of exquisite flute that constantly return to the fore creating an absorbing and somewhat beautiful folky atmospheric feeling. Layers of subtle but extremely melodic piano runs intermixed with a variety of synthesiser patterns give much direction and sensitivity to the music. The personification, though, reflecting the witches celebrating their various rituals is cleverly integrated within the score facilitated by heaps of spooky organ, this intensity is further amplified with a variety of woodwind instrumentation and resulting human mouth manipulations.
Jerry is a reasonable vocalist and handles the singing duties quite well but in my opinion, further shared female accompaniment and the introduction of two or even three part harmonies would have added further interest to the proceedings and elevated the album to top score status.
Nine Witches under a Walnut Tree. Line-up: Jerry Cutillo: All instruments and vocals, except: Jonathan Noyce: Bass (1, 2, 3, 5-9), David Jackson (VDGG): Sax (7), Daniele Fuligni: Grand Piano (3), Tetyana Shyshnyak: Soprano & backing vocals (2-9), Cristiana De Bonis: Vocalisms & backing vocals (8-9), Gerlinde Roth: Spoken word (9), Marta Perozzi: Backing vocals (1) and Eclisse Di Luna: Backing vocals (9).