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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything

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Like a kind of musical contortionist, Stefano Bollani keeps repositioning himself with eye-popping ease. The diversity and eclecticism of Bollani's projects are reflected in the sweeping breadth of his vocabulary; his output as leader on ECM alone, since his debut Piano Solo (ECM, 2006), is indicative of his adventurous spirit. That solo outing was followed by Orvieto (ECM, 2011), a joyous duologue with Chick Corea, whereas the exhilarating O Que Sera (ECM, 2013) coupled the Italian with Brazilian bandolim player Hamilton de Holanda. With Bollani virtuosity is a given, but the pianist's first ECM effort fronting a group is a ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything

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Anyone who's had the pleasure of watching pianist Stefano Bollani in concert--whether it's in duo with fellow Italian, trumpter Enrico Rava, at the 2009 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival; in the trumpeter's New York Days quintet at the ECM 40th Anniversary celebration, part of the 2010 Enjoy Jazz Festival; or in one of his own various contexts (solo, trio, large ensemble)--knows that, above all, joy is fundamental to the music he makes. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious, as on his 2013 duo release with bandolim master Hamilton De Holanda, O Que Sera (ECM), where these two virtuosos could barely contain themselves and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything

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Largely unacquainted as a unit, the quintet that formed around Italian pianist Stefano Bollani for Joy in Spite of Everything connects with the empathetic familiarity of a long-standing group. The leader--a professional pianist since the age of fifteen--has crossed over most every genre from classical to avant-garde and with equal proficiency. While his early encounters with fellow Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava set him a course for jazz, he has sharpened those skills in the diverse company of saxophonists Gato Barbieri and Phil Woods, guitarist Pat Metheny, free jazz pioneer drummer Han Bennink and many others. The creative sense that Bollani ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefano Bollani / Hamilton de Holanda: O que sera

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Intentional or not, ECM's simultaneously release of Iranian kamencheh master Kayhan Kalhor and Turkish baglama expert Erdal Erzincan's Kula Kulluk Yakişir Mi (2013) with O que será, which captures a positively electrifying 2012 performance by efferverscent Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and Brazilian bandolim virtuoso Hamilton de Holanda, does more than merely celebrate the intimate potential of the duo. Variants, they may be, but there are also timbral similarities between de Holanda's bandolim (mandolin) and Erzincan's baglama (saz) in their use of doubled (or, in the case of the baglama, sometimes tripled) strings.There, however, the comparisons end. Previous ECM ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Stefano Bollani / Hamilton de Holanda: O que sera

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There's a relative paucity of piano and guitar duo recordings; Bill Evans and Jim Hall in the world of jazz, Horacio Salgán and the late Ubaldo de Lio in the world of tango, and Pamela and Robert Trent in the classical world are notable exceptions. When it comes to crossover, jazz pianist Michel Camilo and flamenco guitarist Tomatito's collaborations Spain (Verve, 2000) and Spain Again (Decca Music Group, 2006) set the bar high with their exhilarating blend of Afro-Caribbean, tango, jazz and flamenco flavors. To this short list, Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and Brazilian bandolim (10-string mandolin) player Hamilton de ...

INTERVIEWS

Stefano Bollani: And Now For Something Completely Different

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Impersonating singer Paolo Conte and other Italian cultural icons comes as naturally to pianist Stefano Bollani as interpreting the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Michael Jackson, Brian Wilson, or Maurice Ravel--or indeed, writing novels. To say that Bollani is multitalented is a bit like saying Art Tatum could play the piano a bit. Oh, and Bollani plays the piano a bit like Art Tatum, when he's of a mind. However, as Orvieto (ECM, 2011) --a live recording with pianist Chick Corea elegantly demonstrates, Bollani possesses a delightfully light touch and an uncommon fluidity of ideas. Known for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chick Corea / Stefano Bollani: Orvieto

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Though Chick Corea and Stefano Bollani hail from opposite sides of the Atlantic they're kindred spirits in many ways. Two of jazz's more prolific musicians, both have explored music in any number of settings. Both embrace the roots and traditions of jazz yet refuse to be shackled. A love of Latin melodies is also common ground, but perhaps what binds them most are their boundless curiosity and an inherent desire to be at play. Corea recorded Play (Blue Note, 1992) with Bobby McFerrin and this could be Volume 2, as playfulness royally trumps virtuosity in dialogues imbued with joy.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chick Corea / Stefano Bollani: Orvieto

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If the combination of two chordal instruments--guitar with piano, or vibraphone with guitar, say--can prove a significant challenge in improvised music, then surely the piano duo is the most demanding of all. No other instrument has a seven-and-a-quarter octave range, played with eight fingers and two thumbs, creating far greater risk of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic train wrecks. Pianist Chick Corea has been mining the vast harmonic potential of the piano duo more than most, beginning with An Evening with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea: In Concert (Columbia, 1978), which came as something of a surprise for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefano Bollani / Jesper Bodilsen / Morten Lund: Stone In The Water

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There is a conversational thread that runs throughout the trio recording by Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and his Danish trio with bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund. Since that colloquia is produced by ECM's Manfred Eicher, the tone is hushed, but the exchange is discerning and intelligent.

Bollani's previous disc for ECM was Piano Solo (2007), and he also can be found working with Enrico Rava on a number of the trumpeter's discs, also for ECM, including Easy Living 2004), TATI (2005), The Third Man (2008) and the critically acclaimed New York Days (2008).

On ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefano Bollani / Jesper Bodilsen / Morten Lund: Stone In The Water

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Serendipity can be a wonderful thing. Invited to perform with 2002 JazzPar prize-winner, trumpeter Enrico Rava, pianist and fellow Italian Stefano Bollani first encountered bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund when they were proposed as the rhythm section for the Danish award show and a brief tour. The chemistry was on such a deep level that Bollani, Bodilsen, and Lund decided to continue as a trio. Seven years and two albums on the Danish Stunt label later, Stone In The Water finally gives the trio the international exposure it deserves. Aesthetically akin, in some ways, to Swedish pianist Bobo ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefano Bollani: Carioca

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Since saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd embraced Brazilian music in the early '60s, the world has come to know and love the gentle sway of bossa nova. Its most outstanding exponents, Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, inspired, and will doubtless continue to inspire myriad artists to borrow from their songbooks. The problem is, we can't seem to get past Gilberto and Jobim. Canta Brazil (Polygram Records, 1990) and the series beginning with Blue Brazil (Blue Note, 1999) did an excellent job of highlighting a plethora of other Brazilian artists and styles of music, but these ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Enrico Rava / Stefano Bollani: The Third Man

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Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Stefano Bollani have been collaborators for more than a dozen years and the dynamism of their close association is evidenced on their exquisite new duo CD. These two virtuosic and supremely focused performers need no third man to round out their evocative, often introspective and always superb playing on this recording, which features two very different but stunning renditions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's “Retrato Em Branco Y Preto," works from another Brazilian, Moacir Santos, and Italians Bruno Martino and Bruno Brighetti as well as Rava and Bollani originals (they share composer credit for the ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Stefano Bollani

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In December, 2007 Italian pianist Stefano Bollani got the chance to play in one of Rio de Janeiro's poorest places, the favela. For most, performing in such a dreary locale would not be so pleasant, but for Bollani it was extraordinary. “They never have concerts there," he explained. “It's the poorest place on Earth and there was a stage with a grand piano and playing my music in front of these people was amazing. They were incredible, saying, “Here is a pianist from Italy! He came to play for us!' They were so proud of that. I have been told ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Enrico Rava / Stefano Bollani: The Third Man

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With the diminishing role of mentoring in jazz, it's gratifying to not only watch a young artist emerge from under the tutelage of a more senior master, but to become a musical equal. Italian pianist Stefano Bollani may have been drawn into the world of jazz at the age of 24 by veteran trumpeter Enrico Rava, but in the ensuing twelve years he's become a distinctive voice in his own right, culminating in the near-encyclopedic breadth of Piano Solo (ECM, 2006). While it's by no means a case of the student surpassing the teacher--Rava is still too vital and, at ...



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