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Stefano Battaglia: Raccolto

AAJ Staff By

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Since the '80s, maverick Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia has been responsible for a stack of about fifteen records as a leader on the homegrown Splasc(h) label, as well as plenty of sideman appearances and discs elsewhere. Raccolto is his ECM debut, reflecting the Munich-based label's incresingly pan-European outlook. Battaglia is classically trained and has a very precise touch, but he's fluently conversant in jazz from post bop through free improvisation.

This double-disc effort, recorded in late 2003, features separate sets by two groups: a standard piano trio and one with bass traded for violin. Battaglia's free approach to the piano is surprisingly consistent in both contexts, emphasizing temporal development but self-consciously introducing harmonic and rhythmic diversions along the way. Fifteen of the 21 moody pieces are jointly credited, and their highly improvisational nature manifests itself through spontaneity and interaction.

It could be that 105 minutes of music are just too much to absorb in one sitting, but even by the middle of the first CD, Battaglia's playing starts to grate. Even though this is mostly a spare recording with plenty of space, the pianist plays more notes than he needs to, diluting his message. To my ears some of that excess seems to be spilling over from his classical roots, which surface during the moments of greatest redundancy. To play clean, crisp jazz like this, it's essential to rely on implication, and he occasionally loses sight of that imperative.

Percussionist Michele Rabbia appears on both discs, lending a range of subtle color and shading throughout but rarely pushing to the foreground or demanding attention. Bassist Giovanni Maier makes use of the full range of his instrument and listens sensitively to the other players. Violinist Dominique Pifarély, who replaces him on the second disc, sounds much more dynamic and dramatic.

Raccolto is not background music in any sense of the word, nor does it swing. The best way to enjoy these meditations is to pay attention, especially to the in-the-moment action and reaction that develops over time. These four musicians play with assertive confidence and deliberate intention.

Track Listing: CD1: Raccolto; Triangolazioni; Triosonic I; All is Language; Our Circular Song; Coro; Triosonic II; In Front of the Fourth Door; L'Osservanza. CD2: Lys; Canto I (Dell'agonia Della Terra); Riconoscenza; Réminiscence pout Violon et Piano; Pourquoi?; Il Circo Ungherese; Veritas; Velario de Marzo; Recitativo in Memoria de Luciano Berio; Canto II Ddell'agonia Dei Ceili); Trois Brouillons; ...Dulci Declinant Lumina Somno.

Personnel: Stefano Battaglia: piano; Michele Rabbia: percussion; Giovanni Maier: double-bass (CD1); Dominique Pifarély: violin (CD2).

Title: Raccolto | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: ECM Records

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