The title of Leo Blanco's third album, Pianoforte, makes it clear: this is just one man and one piano. But it's an exceptional instrument, played by an exceptional musician.
Blanco's 2009 album Africa Latina (Ayva Musica) and 2004's self-produced Roots & Effect featured international ensembles including guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Peter Slavov, saxophonist Dave Liebman and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Alone on stage, bereft of the support of these talented artists, Blanco shows no sign of hesitancy or lack of confidence. His playing flows gracefully, his improvisations retaining the same highly-focused melodic sense displayed in his more tightly written tunes.
Pianoforte was recorded over two nights at the Teatro Cesar Rengifo in Mérida, Blanco's Venezuelan hometown. One night was kept private, and on the other he played in front of an audiencesome of each performance is captured here. The sound from both nights is exceptionally clear; each nuance of Blanco's playing is apparent.
All of the compositions are by Blanco, with the exception of Simon Diaz's "Tonada del Cabrestero," which Blanco plays with great finesse. Some of these tunes have appeared on Blanco's previous releases"Peru Lando" is on Africa Latina; "Roots & Effect," "Dancers" and "Light Over Dark" are all on Roots & Effect. On Pianoforte Blanco gives each tune space and tranquility, room to reveal some of their more subtle and melancholy qualities. "Improvisation I" is particularly impressivea ten-minute piece that's full of romance and warmth, shifting from dramatic, percussive sections through sparkling arpeggios to what sounds briefly like Blanco's take on The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby."
"Haiku For Midnight Bells And Piano" is brief but beautiful. Blanco's sparse and considered response to the sound of nearby church bells chiming the witching hour creates a "duet" between the bells and the piano that delightfully draws the album to its close.
Vals #5; Peru Lando; Tonada del Cabrestero; Dancers; Improvisation I;
Interludio; Desiguales; Light Over Dark; Improvisation II; Roots &
Effect; Haiku For Midnight Bells And Piano.