Umbria Jazz Winter in Orvieto, Italy
In the blur of sensory overload and sleep deprivation that is a six-day jazz festival, two impressions remain as the most lasting. One is Anat Cohen. She is highly accomplished on tenor and soprano saxophones and as she dances to the music, glorious mop of curls flying, it is impossible to take your eyes off her. On clarinet she is so strong that, when she follows another clarinetist in the program, whether playing parts or blowing, it is startling: Cohen plays a clarinet on steroids. She is also versatile. In Orvieto she played Brazilian music exclusively, in da Fonseca's band and with Stefano Bollani on his "Brazilian night." Da Fonseca, who should know, says, "Anat plays Brazilian music with no accent."
The other is Stefano Bollani, who dominated this festival. Because he filled in for Joao Gilberto, Bollani played six times, with six different groups, usually in the ornate 19th century Teatro Mancinelli, where he filled all four tiers of opera boxes. He played in three duos, with his own Italian quintet and Brazilian project and as a sideman with Roberto Gatto. It would have been preferable if, with so much exposure, he had been able to perform at least once solo or with his working trio. Then he would have made it even more indisputable that, at 36, he has become one of the most creative and complete pianists in jazz.
But the set with Enrico Rava was magical. Forget everything you heard earlier about duos. Rava and Bollani made one of the best albums of 2008 together, The Third Man (ECM). In Orvieto they recreated its rapt atmosphere. Rava makes Bollani stay within himself. When Bollani and Rava are alone together, there is space for silence. Behind Rava, Bollani played soft, broken chords and his solos were poetic fragments and suggestive implications. Rava, too, was inspired to pare his own lines down to cryptic partial messages that he left to hang in the air.