Setting aside his Hammond Organ, Mellotron and Moog synthesizer for a short while, Beppe Crovellabest known as the keyboardist for Italian progressive/fusion group Arti E Mestieri, last heard on First Live in Japan
(MoonJune, 2007)goes solo on Pianovagando
. While he's performed brief piano solos during live performances with AEM, this is the first time he's focused on solo acoustic piano for an entire album, and while comparisons to other pianists who have gone this route would be expected, Crovella differentiates himself by delivering 57 miniaturesranging from a mere 29 seconds to a whopping three-and-a-half minutes, with the majority under twoover the course of this 75-minute program.
He may not have Keith Jarrett's facility or sophistication, but there's an almost innocent simplicity to Crovella's playing that avoids the head entirely and goes straight for the heart. Rather than flourish with a lot of superfluous technical display, Crovella instead aims for a more direct conduit to the emotions, beginning with the fanfare of "Birth," which segues directly into the overt romanticism of "Gianfranco," the clearer drama of the unresolved "Over the Ocean" and neo-classicism of "Montmartre," all in the short space of five minutes.
Sequenced so that it feels like a continuous recital of cohesive strengtheven though it wasn't recorded that wayit feels as if it were conceived as a long-form suite, with the emotional range an intended journey. Crovella very occasionally takes advantage of the studio to enhance his performance, adding the sound of rain behind the aptly titled "Rain on Chet," which refers to a well-known Parisian photographer who, traveling home during a rainstorm, found his photos, including one of Chet Baker, floating down the street. It's a melancholy piece made all the more so with the addition of the natural backdrop. At the end of "Fahrenheit," Crovella expands its final, decaying chord with reverb that creates a broadening link to the more rhythmically propulsive "Mexicali," the album's longest track that's surprisingly episodic, despite its three-plus minute duration.
While traditional jazz is a distant reference here, Crovella does swing decidedly on tracks including "Shirahata Pond" and "Studio 1," the most overtly jazz-centric track on the disc, with its brief blues markers.
There are brooding tracks ("Back Home"), melancholy love songs ("After Love Solitude") and buoyant optimism ("Valzer Del Tempo"). What's most remarkable about Pianovagando, in fact, is Crovella's ability to pack so many musical styles and emotional resonances in an hour, and especially on tracks that are sometimes so short that it seems they're over before they've even begun.
Still, despite the brevity of these miniatures, Crovella manages to make each one feel complete and self-contained, while joining together to create an evocative whole that's truly greater than the sum of its parts. Those looking for Jarrett's over expressionism will need to look elsewhere; but for those who enjoy music that targets the heart with honesty and complete directness, Pianovagando will be a tremendously satisfying listen.