I am often a music fanatic before I'm a reviewer. Note to self: read the liner notes of the CDs to which you listen. With apologies to those who always begin with the notes, I tore open the latest by Lisbon-born pianist Bernardo Sassetti, popped it in the player, and gave it a listen or three.
My brain kept registering the music as a soundtrack to some movie. I neglected to verify that Sassetti did in fact combine his skills as a jazz improviser and composer for cinema to create Ascent. His previous discs for the Portuguese Clean Feed label include a ponderous double solo record, Indigo, and a trio outing, Nocturno. He also recorded the music for the soundtrack to the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley.
And there you have it: Sassetti is at home in jazz, cinema and classical realms. His fans should come from listeners of Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau. His music oozes a rich contemplative side, but it doesn't suffer from overindulgenceit probes the depths without being over-sentimental.
He doubles his traditional jazz trio with a second trio of cello and vibraphone, expanding the jazz while contracting the soundtrack music into a chamber setting. The set opens with the minimal and haunting "Do Silêncio Revelação, where his solo hand leaves echoing traces like the lingering scent of a mysterious woman that has left the room seconds before you arrive. Next he slowly opens things with his jazz trio by playing the final phrases of some tragedy. When he includes the second trio of vibes and cello, Sassetti reveals his expansion of musical theory. Yes, the universe is more than your interior world.
The two-part "Mov. Contrário Um dia, através do vidro begins a spectacular journey, engaging the double trio in an ever-changing landscape of mood and tempo. Likewise, "(In)diferente, a pulsing jazz trio track, rattles the windows with precise swing and percussive playing. Sassetti can certainly mine the emotional content, even if it is in the quietness of the piano/cello opening to "Da Noite Ao silêncio"with its child-like awed feel.
Kudos to Bernardo Sassetti and this most beautiful recording.