Chick Corea and Stefano Bollani's Orvieto (named after the Italian city in which it was recorded) finds the two pianists, an American who is pushing 70 and an Italian in his late 30s, paired at a duo acoustic piano concert from December 2010. The set consists of tunes alternated from each of the player's repertoires, but only the selections were agreed upon in advance; otherwise, the two are winging it. Naturally, Corea takes the lead on his numbers and Bollani on his, making it easy to tell the difference between them, even if their playing styles were not sufficiently distinct. The opening with the mutually composed-on-the-spot "Orvieto Improvisation No. 1" suggests a more esoteric effort than the concert as a whole turns out to be, as Corea and Bollani feel each other out with dissonant chords in a modern classical manner, before the piece develops rhythmically and comes together. The track gives way to Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Retrato em Branco e Preto," Bollani's first showcase (fans will recall that he recorded an entire album of Jobim music, Falando de Amor), which demonstrates the Italian's sometimes florid, always emotional, and highly melodic playing style. Here and elsewhere, Bollani demonstrates a pretty, lyrical, and showy approach, including cascading runs, as Corea supports him with rhythmic chording. The older player demonstrates his technical ability starting with a take on the standard "If I Should Lose You," taking fast, bright, single-note runs. And so it goes, as Bollani actually proves the more traditional of the two, Corea recalling his bop roots, particularly when the duo's second improvisation gives way to Miles Davis' "Nardis," a tune associated with Bill Evans (a player to whom Corea has devoted an entire album). Although Corea is often figuratively as well as literally on Bollani's home turf, providing support on Bollani originals and another Jobim selection, the show closes with a strong reading of Corea's "Armando's Rhumba" before the enthusiastic crowd brings the pianists back to make up a "Blues in F." And thus the veteran of Hispanic heritage and the younger Italian mix their Southern European flavors on one of the building blocks of American jazz, making for a heady musical concoction that confirms the talents of both.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann