Riccardo Zegna

Andalusa

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AllMusic Review by

There are many Italian pianists who record solo albums, and many of them structure their sets with chestnuts from the canon hidden among the originals. And finally, many of them pull them off and offer a pleasant engaging listen or two. But few -- very few pianists of any jazz generation -- are truly compelling for their every note the way Riccardo Zegna is. Had he been born in the United States he would be a legend by now for his wonderfully idiosyncratic technique; his humorous, warm, and musically challenging compositions; and his reverence for all great music. Andalusia is a wonder of an album in that it showcases Zegna's harmonic sensibilities for what they are: wildly sophisticated and innovative, yet warmly human. His rhythmic technique is simply extraordinary and his flair for counterpoint -- with himself -- is almost singular among the Italians. Of the originals, the title track, with its off-minor phrasing, and "Gossamer," with its shimmering glissandi, are notable for their deft use of right-hand dexterity, making ninth and 11th jumps off a pair of dissonant chords and working in them into the solo as if they were in the tonic chord. His reading of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" is right up there with Old and News Dreams' version for its gorgeous ostinato, spacious use of harmonics, and the inversion of line. Also lovely is his reading of "Blue Monk" (a standard for Italian pianists). Playing it deeply in the lower register, Zegna creates a staccato rhythmic approach whereby the melody and basslines are overlapping and complementing each other. This is one of the best jazz piano records to come out of the '90s and is worth seeking out at any cost.

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