Formed in 2015 in Naples, though its individual members have long since gone outernational, piano trio Kósmos debuted with Back Home (Jazzit) in 2019. The album was composed of reworkings of five tunes by Lennie Tristano plus one original each by pianist Stefano Falcone, bassist Ilaria Capalbo and drummer Giuseppe D'Alessandro.
The follow-up, Averno, is a different kettle of fish, devoid of any discernible links with Tristano's austere cerebralism. It has no apparent connnection, either, to ancient Roman and Greek mythology concerning Averno, a lake in the volcanic countryside west of Naples, which Virgil identified as the gateway to Hades and over which no bird was said to be able to fly without being killed by poisonous sulphur fumes. Not a great place for a vacation.
The Averno conjured by Kósmos is instead full of light and life, as warm and delightful as south Italian sunshine in the spring. The music is lyrical, caressing and given half a chance slips into supple but sinewy grooves. There are two tunes each from Falcon, Capalbo and D'Alessandro and one cover, "Sa Rinner Tiden Bort," written by the late Swedish singer and author Olle Adolphson.
If any ancestor comes to mind it is the pianist Bill Evans. Not because Falcone's style bears any singular likeness to that of Evans, but because Kósmos' non-hierarchical approach is a close relation of the one Evans pioneered with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian between 1959 and LaFaro's passing in 1961. Just as the three Kósmos musicians are equally responsible for composing the material on Averno, so they take turns in prompting each track's evolving emphases and shifts in direction. The group is all about interaction and interplay, not the top-down piano-led direction which characterised pre-Evans piano trios (and still makes itself felt in many groups in 2023).
Highly recommended. As also, should you have missed it, is Capalbo's outstanding quintet album, Karthago (Bluenord), recorded in Stockholm and among the highlights of 2022.
Roba’iiyat; The Narrow Sea; Largo; The Tale Of The Night And The Madman; Distances; Hymn; Sa Rinner Tiden Bort.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.