For his fifth album as leader Dublin-based Italian pianist Francesco Turrisi strikes out on his own with his first solo piano recordinga format he's well used to in a live setting. These thirteen compositions/improvisations were inspired by his family's migration north from Sicily to Turin, and subsequently by his own northern migrationsfirst to The Netherlands where he graduated in jazz and baroque music and then to Ireland where he has made his home. As with Turrisi's outstanding debut Si Dolce e il Tormento (Diatribe Records, 2009) and the exquisite Grigio (2013, Diatribe Records), the pianist draws from early baroque, traditional Italian folk and pan-Mediterranean colors, weaving the various threads together with a composer's sense of narrative and a jazz improviser's flare.
A triptych of Moorish pieces, "Taksim I (Partenze)," "Taksim II (Longings) and "Taksim III (Il Ritorno) mark the beginning, mid-point and final destination of Turrisi's sonic meditations. The pianist conjures the emotional turmoil of parting, the aching of a migrant's limbo and the mixed emotions on returning home with a cinematographer's feel for dramaturgy. Though Turrisi occasionally unleashes tumbling virtuoso cadenzas, notably on a haunting interpretation of the traditional seventeenth century Italian tune "Carpinese" and on the elegant ballad "On the Fourteenth Day," his forte as a pianist arguably resides in a keen melodic sense and adherence to the emotional currency at play.
Melancholy runs through these pieces like a unifying motif, though the shading is varied. "Isole" and "Northern Migration"with the faintest hint of an accordion like a breeze, and ghostly Roland Juno effectsare built upon simple, affecting melodies and counterpoint -ruminative in their repetitiveness; "Mi Marisposa Hermosa," a metaphor perhaps for letting go that which cannot be held, has a gently aching quality; on the moving "A Thousand Tears Old" Turrisi brings a tender, caressing touch to a very personal lament. The blues that Turrisi's music undoubtedly harbours is refined and poetic in character, and whether expressing apprehension, yearning, nostalgia or loss, speaks of universal sensibilities.
Elsewhere Turrisia multi-instrumentalistemploys frame drum on the stately "Ostinato"; here, both melody and rhythm are repeated throughout, punctuated by an improvisational interlude. On the pretty "Toccata Cromatica" the introspective beginning gives way to swelling emotions as Turrisi's spiralling motif gathers momentum. The one non-original, "Passacalio," by seventeenth century composer/violinist Biagio Marini, sees Turrisi at his most serene, his feathery touch bestowing the quality of a lullaby on this softly beguiling vignette.
Northern Migrations feels like a distillation of everything that Turrisi has held dearest up until now. The myriad influences in these touching musical portraitsinfluences that traverse history and geographyare clearly felt yet so closely bound together as to sound like one idiom and one unfolding story. Turrisi's most personal, and arguably most captivating work to date.
Taksim I (Partenze); Isole; Mi Mariposa Hermosa; Carpinese; On the Fourteenth Day; Northern Migrations; Taksim II (Longings); A Thousand Tears Old; Ostinato; Toccata Cromatica; Passacalio; Volo Meglio Solo; Taksim III (Il Ritorno).
Francesco Turrisi: piano, accordion (6), frame drum (9); Ben Rawlins: Roland Juno (6).