If Jamie Cullum were 10% more attractive, had spent the better part of his childhood playing music from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, and had salivating issues, he probably would have been the spitting image of Joe Raciti. Bringing an unusual fusion of piano-pop, musicals and strange short stories to life with a youthful exuberance and mature musicianship, Joe seems determined to confuse just as often as delight.
To his friend's amusement, Joe is a generally odd person. Sometimes he makes music with objects not normally thought to be very musical, such as carboard, refrigerators, and weed whacker twine. No one really blinks an eye anymore when he emerges from his room with a full-sized cardboard bass, replete with f-holes, and a unique tuning system. At night he hallucinates symphonies.
When Joe was a kid, his piano teachers would grow upset to find that he hadn't practiced. They didn't realize it was because he couldn't read music... after the teacher had played through the piece he was supposed to have practiced on his own, Joe was able to pick up enough by ear to convince the teacher that he had practice some - enough to subdue the scolding and eventually enough to garner praise.
Recognized in a congressional art competition, one of Joe's paintings hung in the Capitol Building in Washington DC for two years. Joe spent subsequent summers drawing nudes and his own hands and composing on the piano for hours at a time.
Unable to sight-read music well enough to appease the Swarthmore music department, Joe was "forced" to study art - happy to continue his musical studies on his own. As the leader of a handful of bands and the author of an comic operetta, he was able to hone his compositional chops before writing his original musical "Dance Dangerously" in his senior year.
Joe is still very much interested in writing musicals and, for better or worse, doesn't care to fit neatly into much of a mold. His latest release, "Romantic Shark Attack," reflects this approach to making music and is best described as a quirkily-orchestrated, melodically-explosive, mental orgasm.
After having recorded all of the tracks to the album, Joe learned some interesting things about the instruments used. 1.) The piano parts were recorded on the same piano that Regina Spektor uses as a rehearsal piano before large New York shows. 2.) Joe may now be in a spit-web with a Nazi from the Third Reich marching band, having blown through the specific trumpet that makes a brief appearance after the bridge of "Her Point". 3.) His aunt's very old violin, borrowed from the basement, is apparently a strikingly well-crafted copy (label included) of a Guarneri violin made hundreds of years ago. An original Guarneri violin, depending on condition, is valued around a million dollars.
Perhaps these "coincidences" are the reason why the album sounds like it draws on influences from a bizarre range of sources. Perhaps "Romantic Shark Attack" is digital evidence of historical vibrations that once bounced off of distant planets and have since reconvened simultaneously, by sheer chance, to fill up Joe Raciti's ears and mind in a ephemeral orchestration of secret plots and flapping butterfly wings. Perhaps it is nothing more than a lot of intense musical thought and focus.