Sicilian Opening from Salvatore Bonafede is a wonderful album. It offers ample reason why Bonafede has been in demand by musicians as diverse as Ralph Towner, Enrico Rava, Dewey Redman, and Lester Bowie. The Italian pianist is an extremely gifted and melodic composer. His songs are utterly fascinating and memorable. They can flutter and soar, like birds on the wing, as "La Grande Ilusión" and "Appunti su Palermo," do. They gallop and swing with equal portions of equine grace and jazzy swagger as "Ideal Standard" does. Then there are those that echo in the mind's ear with marvelous and unforgettable lines that criss-cross each other with contrapuntal majesty, such as "Italiàn Ingegno" and "Torre Ligney."
Of course Bonafede is also a fine pianist who combines near perfect technique with just enough of a tilt in his manner of swing that it gives him a unique and ability to interpret his own and other written material with curious and original expression. His exacting statements of melody on the Beatles' "Blackbird" are a fine example of how he combines horizontal linearity with devastating horizontal elasticity. Thus he makes the song quite his own from chorus to chorus. Still the melody ripples and chirps under the surface cheerfully as the Bonafede leads the ensemble on a soaring journey. On "She's Leaving Home" he is even more daring as he darts in and out of the melody with the curved grace and elegance of a sublime craftsman in a swelling ocean of sound.
Although Bonafede tends towards a folksier, Southern Italian idiom, sometimes with the heavy influence of Arabic-Mediterranean quarter notes flavoring the melodic rush, he also shows himself to be an ever conscious of the blues. This is a singular feeling that seems to infuse the art of many musicians from the Peninsula and it is as unique as that of the Delta. While no pattern of 12 bars emerges here there is a bursting tension in the melodies that emerge when soaked in the Sicilian sun that ululate and wail from line to line throughout the stated melody as on "Appunti su Palermo." "bbbb" however is played in a more straight Delta style and is as authentic as one can ever be.
Bonafede has also chosen to constitute his trio wisely. Although drummer Marcello Pellitteri is a tad hard on the toms and the ride cymbal at times he offsets the piano's softness with graceful rhythmic patterns almost throughout. Bassist Marco Panascia is a master of tone and, at times, can even embellish a piece with subtle shades together with Pellitteri. "Lode al Silenzio" shows the two men to be in sublime control of their instruments allowing the pianist to shape and give body and characteristic emotion to the piece. Sicilian Opening is an album with many such gems and their discovery may require repeated listening of the material. In the end, though, it's all worth the effort.
Sicilian Opening; La Grande Ilusion; Ideal Standard; bbbb; WWW; Blackbird; It Plays From Far; Appunti su Palermo; Italian Ingegno; Lode al Silenzio; She's Leaving Home; Torre Ligny.
Salvatore Bonafede: piano; Marcello Pelitteri: drums; Marco Panascia: bass.
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