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Encouraging experimentation is the lifeblood of jazz. It keeps the music vital and ensures that new voices get to have their say. The minute the music becomes a museum relic, played through a fixed, orthodox interpretation, is the moment it dies an ignominious death. Thank goodness, then, for musicians like pianist Francesco Turrisi, who embraces creative experimentation on Fotographia.
This collection of fifteen vignettes periodically employs bassist Claus Kaarsgaard and percussionist Joao Lobo. But for the most part, it's Turrisi's show. His approach has a graceful, classical sensibility to it, even when he's playing atonally. His light, refined touch conveys subtle purpose whether he's playing straight or far out.
The compositions and improvisations are derived from a variety of inspirations, including Pensierini, which are short children's essaysprimary school assignmentsthat Turrisi uses conceptually as a musical exercise. These seven spontaneously improvised trio pieces, scattered throughout the album, are the freest, most avant works, but they also present a range of approaches. Two employ random plunking; one is a melancholy dirge, reminiscent of a Frederic Chopin Nocturne; another becomes a mechanical pattern of pianistic industrialism. Some are jarring and angular, and some are jewel-like in their petite splendor. The breadth of ideas presented within the concept is remarkable.
The other tracks on Fotographia are a mix of Italian traditional songs, Turrisi's own compositions, and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Luiza." The title track is a slow, spacious echo, employing silence around the notes, building slowly into a chord structure. "Pensierosa" is a melodic exploration of waving chords and arpeggios that presents an almost bucolic soundscape. It's a beautiful piece that showcases Turrisi's classical sensibility and lyrical composing abilities.
Fotographia can be a challenging record, but it can also be very rewarding. It's brilliance lies in the variety of its musical perspectives and techniques. Its accomplishment lies in taking those disparate elements and getting them to all hang together in a consolidated work. The delight in listening to it is the expectation that the next track will contain something really special, but not knowing what that is until it arrives.
Track Listing: Attaccati Li Tricci; Fotographia I; Pensierino I, in mille pezzi; Luiza;
Pensierino II, sono l'uomo ombra; Pensierosa (For Helen); Pensierino III,
rimorso; Alla Carpinese; Pensierino IV, formicai; Lachrimae (for my father);
Pensierino V, scarabocchio; Pensierino VI, il lago fantasma; Fotographia
II; Pensierino VII, verso il basso; Attaccati Li Tricci II.
Personnel: Francesco Turrisi: piano; Claus Laarsgaard: bass; Joao Lobo: drums.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.