There are a few bands with the same name, for example: O.A.K., one is from Norway, another from Italy. Most prog lovers are only familiar with the Norwegian one.
The Italian composer and multi-instrumentalist Jerry Cutillo founded his O.A.K. (Oscillazioni Alchemico Kreative) in 1993. Nevertheless, that prog project is a little under the radar. Time to change that! Because the O.A.K. albums are wonderful. Before I talk about music, I would like to tell you more about Jerry.
He was kissed by the luck for the reason Palaeur, the biggest venue in his hometown Rome, was just a mile away from his house. When he was about fourteen years old, he sometimes was allowed to get home late. So, in the early 70’s, he saw Genesis at their peak, Gentle Giant as the new prog revelation, King Crimson with their ‘Lark’s tongues in aspic’. Yes on their ‘Tales from topographic ocean tour’ and; Frank Zappa. Jerry explains:” This was my first school of art that pushed me straight into the study of music.”
His parents bought him a double keyboard console organ. That was the first instrument he learned to play. “Later, I dusted down my sister’s acoustic guitar hanging on the wall and began to strum some basic chords. Furthermore, I sold my bicycle and I got enough money to buy my first flute. Then, a primordial multi-instrumentalist was born.” declares Jerry.
Late 70’s the prog was definitively over. So, Jerry cut his hair, colored it red and wanted to be a punk rocker. But one day, he stepped into a record shop, and he could not resist buying Jethro Tull’s new album ‘Stormwatch’. Jerry continues: “In 1979 Ian Anderson, like the rest of the prog icons, was considered old fashioned. I left the shop hiding the LP under my arm, walking like a thief and turning my head left to right trying not to be seen by the other punks around. It was so embarrassing!”
Moses versus ‘Oscillazioni Alchemico Kreative’
In the early eighties Jerry was busy with pop tunes in a professional recording studio. There, he worked with the best session men in town. They were older (and wiser) and they taught him the finesses. This led to a couple of pop hits.
Jerry reminds: “I looked like a real dandy. But one man in the team, who pretended to be my manager, called me Jesus. Later on, he used the name Moses! I thought it was a joke but when he revealed his intention to give that nickname to me, I was very annoyed. However, I didn’t have much time to complain because all of a sudden, I found myself at the top of the charts with a couple of dance–a-like songs. I was panicking! Me, a young solo artist, facing such a huge success.”
Moses’s disco track ‘We just’ became a hit. The videoclip is available at You Tube:
Those days he was at the Dutch tv program ‘Countdown’. A young (female) magazine reporter was curious about the secret behind the success of ‘We Just’. Jerry diverted the topic to some details regarding the new acoustic ballad he wrote in his hotel room the other night.
He could not express himself into the pop/disco genre, and there was a moment when he realized he was going wrong. He quit stardom and went back to his prog roots. In 1993 he formed a band, named O.A.K. Jerry loves trees and in particular oaks so the name looked perfect. When they found out that Oak was very a common name in English spoken countries, they already gained some followers. Therefore, it was too late to change the band name. Jerry explains: “So, we transmuted the name into the acronym: 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”.
When you search for O.A.K. at You Tube, you’ll have to type ‘Oscillazioni Alchemico Kreative’ to find the right O.A.K.
So far, the O.A.K. lineup has always been flexible. It isn’t Jerrys choice, he always dreamed to have a “real band”. O.A.K. always have been a solid nucleus around which various musicians took turn, giving their contribution to recordings and live projects. But there has never been much money involved! Old school prog bands received great financial helps. Profitable record contracts allowed them to stay focused on their musical projects for long periods of time. These are his models but times have changed.
Jerry loves the nature, skies and people. He also loves art, old cities, ancient traditions and magic stories. Last but not least he likes to dream about what future will bring (despite the prophecies of eco disasters) and he tries to do his best to make a better world. With all these elements, he makes ‘series of images’. This results in a kind of mental paintings whom drives him to work.
Jerry tells about the process after the inspiration: “I spot the seed of a vision with a feeble sound on the background. This rough idea remains on hold. Then, little by little, it gets its meaning, arrangements and lyrics and the project takes shape. I lead the creative process all by myself but most of the times, I must admit, I’m not fully aware about who guides me into the mystery of creativeness. After that, the analytic work takes over and my maniacal side goes through any detail…over and over.”
The O.A.K albums are “filled” with details. Nevertheless, Jerry is not very fond of to call them details. Because even one simple element can make the difference. Jerry put it into the words: ”Haven’t you heard about the butterfly beating that can cause a hurricane ten thousand miles away? “
O.A.K.’ s latest release is ‘Giordano Bruno’ (2018). Jerry mentioned this philosopher in many of his previous lyrics, singing hints from his pearls of wisdom. In ‘Giubileo’, you can find explicit references to the philosopher. ‘Giubileo’ was filmed in Rome (by Marco Viale) in 2015. They went to Saint Peter’s Cathedral and in Piazza Farnese where’s the French embassy. This was a perfect surrounding for the video clip.
Later on, the boss of a prog label saw the video and was very much impressed. He got in touch with Jerry and asked him how came his interest on the philosopher. They ended up planning an album dedicated to him but, before leaving the conversation, Jerry added: “Yes, but it is going to be a double vinyl!”
Jerry is really sorry that their roads have separated and he had to find another label to print the LP.
This rock opera/concept album is about the life and dreams of a philosopher, who was born in Nola in 1548. It’s a complex concept, so, some background info might be needful.
Giordano Bruno believed in an infinite universe. Rather controversial at the time. He was burned as a heretic, at Campo dè Fiori in the year 1600. There is a statute at the square ‘Campo dè Fiori’. This huge monument is made of bronze and granite. It represents a real story into another. It was such a challenge to erect a statue symbolizing Giordano Bruno with a book in his hand, looking fiercely at his accusers just one mile away from the Vatican. For more than one century the Clergy opposed the construction of the statue, trying to hide the bloodlust of the Catholic Church which destroyed all dissidents and never repent for its murders.
Jerry describes about his life: ”There are so many natural connections even if my inbred distrust keeps me away from easy beliefs. In Giordano Bruno’s life, as well as in ours, you can find magical coincidences and they make our existence unpredictable”.
The Italian philosopher was a free thinker who developed theories about a multitude of worlds in an infinite universe. Giordano was brave to the death, but the thing that moves Jerry the most, is the feeling of misunderstanding he carried on through his life. A genius, a great talented man, victim of such a terrible injustice, condemned to suffer in the name of truth.
Parts of the lyrics are Italian, and lyrically driven. But no worries, for all the tracks on the album there is a summary in four languages with contents and meanings. It’s not a sing a long album. Jerry pushed the literary element and the cinematographic aspect of the work to the extreme. He tried to give the listeners the feeling of being in a theater where the music and songs takes you far on a long journey. Giordano Bruno was perennially on the run and lived in many European countries. Up to honor a cosmopolitan man like him, Jerry sang in different languages.
When Jerry started writing and composing he already knew that the album would start when the end of Giordano’s life was near. The first, vivid image Jerry got was Giordano entered Campo dè Fiori and be overwhelmed by the multitude of people who have run for his execution. This represents the big bang of the story because Giordano could not endure such a circumstance and alienates himself from the context traveling through time. The album starts and ends with the same song although with different arrangements. Here you can listen to two tracks Circe and Danse Macabre.
This concept album is released as a double LP, with cd included. The fabulous artwork is made by Ed Unitsky. Prog lovers might recognize the style of this phenomenal, international visual artist and designer.
Last but not least: In 2020 O.A.K. will release a new LP called ‘Nine witches under a walnut tree’. This concept album will give light to the legend of ‘The witches of Benevento’ and the magic walnut where Sabbaths were held.
I would love to thank Jerry for the time he took to tell me so much, much appreciated! Thank you for your effort Jerry!
Heresis strigiatum 1995
Re – living in the past 2000 (Jethro Tull tribute)
Parallel dances 2000
Filosofi senza libri 2004
Shaman feet 2010
Prog exhibition 2011 (compilation)
The best of O.A.K. 2013
The amazing world of Prog 2014 (compilation)
Giordano Bruno 2018
The good news is: some of the older cd’s are going to be re-published. So stay tuned.