Thursday, September 18, 2014

Stefano Bollani, Joy in Spite of Everything

If you get the right musicians together with a leader who has a good idea where he wants to go and a set of compositions that helps bring that direction to bear, and if conditions are ripe for it, you have something very worthwhile. That is the case with Italian pianist Stefano Bollani, his music, and his choice of companions in the recent Joy in Spite of Everything (ECM B0021437-02).

This is music that has a post-Jarrettian flavor to it. Yet it maintains an independent stance. Stefano chose wisely with a line-up consisting of Mark Turner on tenor, Bill Frisell on electric guitar, Jesper Bodilsen, double-bass, and Morten Lund, drums. The rhythm team may be less well-known than the front line but all play very well and sound as if they belong together. And they do.

Stefano Bollani bears close listening. He will surprise you with a phrase that catches you unawares, a run that sounds just right, a creative and technical prowess that puts him at the top of the ECM-style pianists out there today. Both Mark Turner and Bill Frisell sound as good as ever, turning in solos that bring on their own individuality and originality yet swing and poeticize in ways that keep pushing the music forward.

The tunes are very good ones, both of their time and looking forward, embodying jazz tradition yet doing something with that to make it different. They are rather excellent.

Bollani is a joy to hear, a player who is at a peak, certainly, on this album. Everybody else gets right in with it. This is a beauty!

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