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Moving to London in September 2008 appears to have set Italian pianist Maurizio Minardi on a creative hot streak. A new name to me Piano Ambulance is the third album in which Minardi has chosen to share his love of jazz with us since 2012 and leaves the listener with an abiding impression of precision in both expression and melody. Intended to evoke his London home these tight, classically influenced compositions, gain a significant emotional pull from the contrast between Minardi's own extravagant, occasionally florid, piano lines and the sweeping melancholy of Shirley Smart's cello contributions.
Minardi plays beautifully throughout always melodic and emotional, his exuberance giving a feel of say Michael Nyman collaborating with Piano Magic or This Mortal Coil on the soundtrack to a European art house movie. Able support from long standing collaborators Nick Pini on double bass and Jason Reeve on drums completes what feels a very tight unit. Inevitably there are comparisons to the Esbjorn Svenson Trio of say "Where We Used to Live" or "Eighthundred Streets by Feet" off Tuesday Wonderland, but perhaps a better fit is with the late Simon Jeffes' Penguin Cafe Orchestramusic played for the sake of its own beauty, irrespective of genre, that maintains a melodic, emotional, engagement with the listener.
"Goodbye London" exemplifies the approacha simple repeating piano motif is joined first by percussion, before the full quartet enters, and the band's flight leaves the ground. Somehow it is a music that appears both modern and classic at the same time, in part the result of the clear attention to little details that reveal themselves after a few listens. So, for example, there is a subtle 'backwards effect' in the quiet passage of "Friday Almost" (which is probably generated live) or the way that on "Dangerous Innocence" a distant rumble of percussion grows beneath the forthright energetic piano leading to what can only be described as a cello intervention.
Even where the music threatens to contort out of shape as on the energetic "Secret Skin" it feels well thought through and right, the bowed dissonance of the cello part building tension that is released by a more conventionally pretty piano ending. The title and stylistic shifts of this piece imply a difference between appearance and reality, dishonesty almost, but the execution feels so natural and controlled that perhaps the band is simply showing different masks that they can where should context demand.
Whether or not this constitutes a subterfuge it is certainly the sort of album that creeps up on you. It's lightness and gentle melodies make it a great morning record to ease you into the day, often lingering on repeat play for several repetitions. Overall the album is a house guest that any music lover would be glad to welcome into their life and as such is warmly recommended.