City of Broken Dreams is Giovanni Guidi's debut as a headliner for ECM. The 28-year-old pianist led several dates for Japan's Venus and France's Cam Jazz labels, and has appeared on ECM before on Enrico Rava's Tribe (2009) and On the Dance Floor (2012). Guidi wrote all this set's ten compositions. With the pianist backed by American bassist Thomas Morgan and longstanding Brazilian drummer João Lobo, City of Broken Dreams is very different from anything he's issued before. On the title track that opens and closes the date, Guidi uses the most skeletal of folk elements to sketch his melodies, making room for space, resonance, and depth, before he begins to fill them in with lyric chord statements that walk elegantly between the grand melodic Italian jazz piano tradition and the more speculative harmonic considerations of modern creative jazz. By contrast, "Just One More Time" borrows from classical and theater music with knotty rhythmic arpeggios that challenge Lobo as Morgan stridently holds the tightrope between them. "The Way Some People Live" opens almost cautiously, with shimmering upper-register arpeggios laid down gently as Morgan illustrates them with lower-string caresses and occasional chords that lengthen the melody's shadows. Underneath Lobo dances. Midway, Guidi begins to wind inside his own melody and burrow into its timbres and tones, creating tension and mystery with a delicate yet insistent touch. "Late Blue" uses thematic repetition in a seemingly restricted palette that moves along a ledge at once inquisitive and brooding, yet never anything less than lyrical. As he and Morgan move to more abstract terrain, Lobo's cymbal work underscores their exploration, beginning with taps and skitters, but eventually giving way to their darker notions by scraping them to moaning effect. "Ocean View" makes use of modalism and post-bop without ever engaging either fully. Much of the considerable charm of City of Broken Dreams is evidenced by the mastery of musical suggestion this trio commands. They make use of many different forms of music in their approach to jazz, if merely to use their colors, dynamics, and intonations to create something other. This a piano trio album that has plenty and gracefully relies on subtlety to express it.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek