Review by Brad WalsethThe courageousness/audacity of solo pianists always fascinates me. Like a tightrope artist performing without a net, these individuals have no backing band to fall back on, and their every note and nuance is center stage and directly in the spotlight. It takes someone with a combination of supreme skill, creativity and boldness of spirit to even attempt such an endeavor, and even then many artists fall prey to excessive displays of technique or morose and uninteresting forays into shadowy introspection. Fortunately there are artists like Stefano Bollani who are following in the footsteps of Chopin, Scott Joplin and Keith Jarrett and making solo piano music that is both pleasing and consequential.
Stefano Bollani is a phenom on the European scene who I am sure will soon make his mark here in America. Voted Best Jazz Artist of 2006 by Jazz Italica, "Piano Solo" also won Best Album and was a top 40 release on the Italian pop charts. Lovingly produced by Manfred Eicher, "Piano Solo" displays Bollani's classical European background throughout. Whether playing Prokofiev, Brian Wilson ("Don't Talk"), an Italian pop song (the gorgeous "Antonia"), the "Maple Leaf Rag," or straight improv - there is an inherent classicism within. All of the pieces are built on strong tonal forms and structures, and despite their very different natures, move from one the next as if part of one coherent suite.
His imaginative origami-like unfoldings are surprisingly fresh, witty and melodic. Elements of various disparate genres surface as we move through the 16 pieces. Ragtime, New Orleans, pop, jazz, and straight Euro-classical are merged together into a beautiful and personal presentation by this young (36 years old) and very talented musician and composer. Always graceful and harmonious, Bollani exhibits an admirable sense of control that makes "Solo Piano" one of the best and most consistent solo piano recordings in recent history, and one I suspect will be a source of delight for most listeners.
Watch a video of Stefano Bollani performing "Promenade"
Check out Stefano at ECM
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