Stefano Bollani Trio / Stefano Bollani

Stone in the Water

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The delicacy of many ECM recordings can be measured via degrees, but in the case of the music conceived by pianist Stefano Bollani, those increments of hushed tones are micro dynamic, rendered as quintessentially subdued. Within a typically formatted piano-bass-drums trio, Bollani alongside bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund can be described favorably as a cut below most groups of this type in terms of a sonic footprint. While Tord Gustavsen, Esbjorn Svensson, or Bobo Stenson may approach the similarly softer side of contemporary Continental jazz, Bollani has them covered in his utterly subtle approach, while still grasping an elusive, haunting quality to melody-making. These themes are definitely based on a liquid, clear, cool quality that is founded on European chamber music. What is surprising on this disc is how Bollani has adapted the Brazilian music of Caetano Veloso, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Vinicius DeMoraes to his brand of solemn and dimmed light voicings. His version of "Dom de Iludir" parallels the classic melody of "My Romance," while "Brigas Nunca Mais" is humbled into a solemn reality, held in place by Lund's brushwork. A feeling of compact, ethereal wholeness is maintained in the oval framework of this music, whether during the playful, cascading waterfall motif of "Il Cervello del Pavone," the steady, somewhat energized "Un Sasso Nello Stagno," or the small sparks of percussive energy in "Asuda," all compositions of the pianist. The fourth piece contributed by Bollani, "Joker in the Village," has a stairstep, elfin quality that combines childlike mischief with the overall enigmatic façade listeners have come to expect from a Manfred Eicher production. Bodilsen contributes two sleek pieces, as the free-spirited and light "Orvieto" and the under-the-surface, dark, and mysterious paean to "Edith" perfectly center the group as coming out of the introspective, neo-baroque-oriented ECM stable. Surprisingly "out of the box" is an interpretation of French 20th century composer Francis Poulenc's "Improvisation 13 en la Mineur," which sounds merged with the standard "Out of Nowhere." It could be said that this effort is inspired by peaceful oceanic waves lapping up ashore at dusk or daybreak, but you'd have to assume that. Perhaps it is an aural representation of the concentric wave a stone produces as it hits the surface of said water. For sure, the music you hear Bollani and his trio creating is pure and serene, far removed from a traditional jazz trio, and approaching new era -- not new age -- craftsmanship.

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