Stefano Bollani

Piano Solo

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From the label that gave you the solo works of Keith Jarrett, here's another improvising solo pianist, Italy's Stefano Bollani, who comes from all over the place stylistically and isn't shy to say so. On his debut solo disc -- following a number of albums with trumpeter Enrico Rava -- Bollani can improvise on Prokofiev, trip along through a Dixieland standard like "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?," set Lerner & Loewe's "On the Street Where You Live" to a gentle boogie rhythm, turn out splendidly intricate paraphrases on "Maple Leaf Rag," and quietly but not complacently conclude with Brian Wilson's "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)." He also likes to make improbable associations -- "Desafinado" pokes its head in and out of the tango "A Media Luz." For the most part, all of this is filtered through a distinct, poetic, never flashy for its own sake (although "Buzzillare" comes close) improvising personality, a lovely touch, and a concise sense of structure and instinct as to when to quit (only one track pushes over six minutes and most are between three and four minutes). Originally, this was to be an all-Prokofiev-based album, but only one such number made the final cut, "On a Theme by Sergey Prokofiev" (from the Piano Concerto No. 1, and in this rumination, just barely recognizable as such). "Promenade," though, has some harmonic shifts that resemble some of Prokofiev's quick-change tactics. By the way, Bollani is also a published novelist -- but here he concerns himself with short stories, often exquisite ones.

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