Italian pianist Stefano Bollani has again partnered with the top-flight Danish rhythm section of bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund to create something very precious: an hour of emotive music that culminates in the blissful title cut, "Gleda (Joy). While their previous release, Mi Ritorni In Mente (Stunt, 2004), featured standards with Bodilsen as leader, Gleda, by way of Bollani's modern arrangements, turns a century of Scandinavian tunes into an improvisational delight.
Bollani is a pianist whose precise style avoids sterility through artful phrasing. This is immediately apparent as he opens the program with a melancholy chordal intro to the Swedish "Aldrig Som Aldrig, which quickly becomes pensive with expressively flowing melodic lines. Bodilsen's brushes and Lund's rich resonant bass are continually up front with an unvarnished dignity, a la Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. Two selections from Danish composer Kai Norman Anderson in turn excite with the shifting tempos of "Den Allersidste dans (The Very Last Dance)" and caress through the engaging balladry of "Glemmer du (If You Forget).
Bollani's arrangement captures a child's innocent naiveté, while Lund's repetitive bass portrays the impending doom of death, until "Moder, Jeg Er Træt, Nu Vil Jeg Sove (Mother I am Tired, I Want to Sleep Now) inevitably fades out to its concluding angelic kiss. "Dansen og Valsen (The Dance and the Waltz) is a memorably fresh spin on the floor, courtesy of quick-paced rhythms and an extended bass solo. Bodilsen's subtle touches allow Bollani to usher in the regal "Morgenlys over København (Morning Light Over Copenhagen)." The traditional carol "Kimer I Klokker (Chime, You Bells) has Bollani initially jingling before he rings out as a full throated carillon, only to tinkle softly at end before the sweet pleasure of Norwegian "Gleda.
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