Solo European Piano: Bruno Angelini, Stefano Bollani, John Wolf Brennan and Irene Schweizer
John Wolf Brennan
Americans might ask: "Which American forebears impress European jazz pianists most? Answers are complex. Monk, Mal Waldron, Don Pullen and Ran Blake are likely to supply resonating conceptual echoes. Influences are rife, copycats few!
Bruno Angelini's clanging bells on "Immersion from Never Alone grabs attention, but then he chills with well-modulated standards. He meditates on the spareness of "Laura not unlike Ran Blake, later channeling Mal Waldron's intense sense of solitude in "Lover Man and "Left Alone . He de-gospelizes "Motherless Child as avant guardia, dries out "Summertime with rising left hand arpeggios and denatures "Sunny Gets Blue with countrified octaves and Jarrett-esque hammered block-chords.
Stefano Bollani's ineffable melodicism on Piano Solo stands tall and quiet if strong; his force with a light, firm touch invariably unfolds with a slightly diffident poise. Pop song "Antonia opens as quiet etude and two improvisations walk soft with a heavy stick. "For All We Know opens in spare Chopin harmonies but gathers up heavy cloak-folds, while the fadeaway "Don't Talk sighs deep like a nocturne. "Promenade gently (yet not whimsically) tosses about Poulenc bi-tonal lines, then rolls out ruminating fancies. "Impro III teeters a moto perpetuo as if on 'prepared' piano stilts. Bollani reinvents his old jazz masters in sleek conservatory versions. His Joplin rag gradually gathers wisps into a fairly straight ending, "Buzzilare gently rumbles a quasi-Fats left hand and "Miss New Orleans freely ruminates like a kinder, sandpapered Fatha Hines. Bollani's loosening up of formal constraints never rambles too far out, too loud (at most mezzo forte) or too long (just 3 of 16 tracks top 5 minutes) to keep us grasping for more.
John Wolf Brennan shows a composer's ear for painting in 'action compositions' on site in Lucerne's Rosengart Museum with Pictures in a Gallery. His self-duets use prepared piano (plugs, clips, dampers) and plucked strings (like Henry Cowell in The Banshee) to recreate wonderfully bizarre visual effects. Set framers, sauntering post-Debussy excursions á la Petrouchka, also frame rooms full of 'canvases' by latter-day (neo-cubist) Picasso and the ever droll and elusive Paul Klee. Tactile touches and sforzando daubs depict the act of painting. Brennan's "Candy'n Sky celebrates Wassily Kandinsky's unquiet assortment of "Multiple Forms with soundboard taps and harpsichord-like strums in a rumbling dance of shapes and shadows. Later he turns to a Pushkin poem set in a St. Petersburg concert.
Schweizer's nimble touch and airy style makes her lengthy, pointillist excursions throughout First Choice breezy and graceful. She flits her way through the title suite (its 20 minutes flew by) and lilts charmingly even when making thorny points (chromatic Bley-like turnarounds in "Hall of Fame ) and holds our interest through quizzical call-and-response (right vs. left), calling up bell-like clarity at all times. The middle of the concert dries out a tad with static, string-plucking short pieces. Schweizer knows her audience and plays free and easily for them, bringing down the house with two snappy, short encores (Monk's full-bodied "Oska T. and Don Cherry's ruminative "Jungle Beats II .)
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Porgy and Bess; Miroirs; Cantopiano; Never Alone; Tentatives; No Choice; Entropie; L'Incible; Prima O Poi.
Personnel: Bruno Angelini: piano.
Tracks: Antonia; Impro i; Impro ii; Impro on a theme by Sergey Prokofiev; Promenade; Impro iii; A Media Luz; Impro iv; Buzzilare; Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?; Como Fue; On the street where you Live; Maple Leaf Rag; Sarcasmi; Don't Talk.
Personnel: Stefano Bollani: piano.
Pictures In A Gallery - Solo Piano
Personnel: John Wolf Brennan: piano.
First Choice - Piano Solo KKL Luzern
Tracks: First Choice; Into The Hall Of Fame; The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe; Scratching At The KKL; The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Piano Player; Oska T.; Jungle Beats II.
Personnel: Irene Schweizer: piano.