This is a fine companion album to the studio recording The Woodpecker, featuring the identical trio and also released on the Splasc(h) Records label. The label has done a yeoman's job in documenting the Italian jazz scene, with a heavy emphasis on the numerous outstanding pianists such as Manusardi hailing from that country. So, it is with more than a touch of irony that Mitchell Feldman's liner notes call the pianist "an anomaly" for the label because his performance is within the "straight-ahead mainstream jazz tradition." To the contrary: that is one of the styles that the label has made its bread and butter. That being said, although this recording shares some tunes with The Woodpecker, it is more focused on original compositions by the talented pianist. While few if any of the tunes are recognizable, Manusardi is a strong composer, creating sinewy melodic lines. His hands dance across the keyboards, though one has the impression that he works hard at it, with each cluster or combination of notes carefully thought out. Unobtrusive and confident, the pianist favors upbeat tempos that delight in the intricacies of the moment. He fools with volume, tempos, and lots of block chords, though it is an underlying simplicity that grabs the listener most of all. This album fairly represents Manusardi's work on disc and has the "you were there" feel of the live concert. For a sense of what the pianist is about, it is helpful to hear the easily recognizable "Over the Rainbow," which is a glorious exercise in precision, nuance, and romanticism. Ultimately, this recording is another day in the life of one of Italy's musical treasures, and he deserves the international recognition that his varied career and solid talent have earned.
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