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Live Reviews

Umbria Jazz Winter in Orvieto 2006-2007

By Published: February 7, 2007

The encore consisted of audience tune suggestions (Bollani customarily and spontaneously creates a medley at concert's end of stringing together at least five to even ten melodies). Here's a first: "Misty"/ "Desafinado"/ "(theme from) Popeye"/ "(theme from) Heidi"/ "Luglio (July)" (the latter being a famous '60s Italian pop song). As with "On The Street Where You Live," this concept says more than enough about Bollani's virtuosity let alone sheer knowledge of music repertoire, jazz and non-jazz alike.

The pianist would perform three other days, all at the long rectangular upstairs space of the Palazzo del Popolo, for a midnight and two afternoon sets, with his longtime Danish trio: Jesper Bodilsen (bass) and Morten Lund (drums). Bodilsen showed a youthful but certainly well-rounded approach to his instrument, revealing a direct and deep appreciation of Denmark's own well-respected jazz tradition in the countless Danish bass greats from Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on down the line; his maturity at such a young age was made clear in his attack, both in solo and group interplay. Drummer Lund, similarly, was also "guilty" of encouraging and facilitating Bollani's daring proclivities and strengths.

The set fired up appropriately with an introductory medley of an "Untitled" piece (composed by Lund) into "Dansen Og Valsen" and "Moder" (the latter two-thirds can be found on the trio's Gleda: Songs from Scandinavia, 2005). Starting on hand- played cymbals and drumheads, Lund eventually worked his way to sticks, naturally segueing into the group's trio concept of sharing momentum without necessarily relying on any one aspect or player, moving rather as a single entity.

Bollani, the "leader" of the trio of equal parts, thrived off of the multi-textural chord voicings, threading together various related (and unrelated) melodies and moods. For "How Deep is The Ocean," his choice of note-to-note accentuation always retained the element of surprise, avoiding predictability at all cost. Spontaneity is obviously the focal point of Bollani's musical essence, not to mention this trio's. And their stop-time false endings conversely and intentionally sped up towards their rendition's closing coda(s), building momentum to the point of a means to an inevitable end. Their timely rendition of what might have been the greatest and most unique rendition of "Jingle Bells" ever heard is what holiday collections should be made of. Hardly recognizable at first, the up-tempo rendition swung like crazy. The note placements within the dazzling runs led to a comical grunting, moaning improv initiated by Bollani when notes were no longer enough to get the group's message across.

A daily event full of potential but never quite achieving it was the "Suite for Lennie" multi- media presentation of video and music in tribute to the late great pianist, composer and teacher Lennie Tristano (1919-'78) at Sala del Carmine. With Gerardo Iacoucci (piano) and Stefano Cantarano (bass), Massimo Achilli created a video background serving as a collage that very rarely actually synched up with the music being performed (most intriguing actually was the altogether separate Tristano live solo piano concert film that preceded the concert itself while the audience took their seats). The limited relation of video to the suite of music (and vice versa)—excepting occasional segment pauses and starting and stopping points—was distracting. In addition there were plenty of recycled images over- utilized through the lengthy presentation and performance, which further dulled the senses. The lack of an evident chronological development in the video, which rather randomly skipped back and forth between black and white historic shots of New York and '70s shots of New Yorkers crossing the street with knee-high tube socks, soured the artistically intriguing melange of images. Its efforts at trying to communicate a story or any sort of momentum fell far short and seemed trite and far-reaching to say the least.



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