Archive for the Jazz Category

In Walked Bollani

Posted in Jazz, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Bollani Trio color

I’m crazy about Italian jazz. It could be something of an ethnic imperative, since I’m half-Italian (roots in Naples) and a distant grand-cousin to the great Flip Phillips (Joseph Edward Fillippeli, as he was baptized in Brooklyn). My jazz Italiano hunger has been fed by recordings from a trio of spectacular pianists: Stefano Bollani, Riccardo Arrighini and Stefano Battaglia, plus saxophonist Francesco Cafiso and trombonist Gianluca Petrella. That takes care of the musicians with CDs that are currently sitting on my desktop. There are also some elder statesmen, such as trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, about whom I will say more at another time.

ECM 2080

These days a new CD called Stone in the Water on the venerable ECM record label has me breathing heavily. ECM has been good to Italian jazz and has recorded Bollani, Rava, Battaglia and multi-reed player Gianluigi Trovesi over the years. Stone in the Water has Bollani leading his “Danish Trio” with bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morton Lund. The trio has been together for nearly seven years and Stone in the Water isn’t their first CDs, but it may be their finest. (The trio released Mi ritorno in mente and Gleda, two recordings of standards and originals on Stunt Records. These are brilliant CDs that are difficult to find but worth paying the import prices when you do.)

Stone in the Water offers a eclectic selection of tunes, with originals by Bollani and Bodilsen, music by Caetano Veloso and Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as 20th century French classical composer Francis Poulenc’s Improvisation No. 13. The trio’s chemistry is evident on every tune. At times Bollani can be as extroverted a player as any on the scene (just check out his mercurial flights of fancy with Rava and on his ECM solo record Piano), but Stone in the Water is a model of elegance, restraint and balance. Here’s a trio without an alpha figure, but rather an ensemble who are communicating in a mesmerizing way. It’s evident in the exchanges between Bollani and Bodilsen that are punctuated by Lund’s silky brushwork on the tune Edith and how all three paint a gorgeous picture in the Poulenc Improvisation. It’s not all gentle pastels though: The quirky opening of Bollani’s Il cervello del pavone leads to a peppery bass solo and some driving, spiky soloing by the pianist, reminding me in some ways of the late Jaki Byard.

Shades of the Bill Evans Trio may certainly hover nearby, but this music must be taken on its own terms—and they are very good terms indeed. This is a masterful recording that’s rich with invention and lyricism and filled with glorious interaction that results in striking textures and tone. It’s a new and thrilling kind of swinging chamber music that demands your attention.

Here’s the trio in action:

Here’s il maestro in a favorite tune:

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