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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CD Review – Stefano Bollani – Joy In Spite of Everything

Stefano Bollani (piano), Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Bill Frisell (guitar), Jesper Bodilsen (bass), Morten Lund (drums)
(Review by Hugh)
Stefano Bollani has had previous collaborations with Enrico Rava and Chick Corea and has also improvised solo or led a trio. On this album we find him with a transatlantic quintet powered by a Danish rhythm section and joined by guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Mark Turner. The album, which comprises nine new compositions by Bollani was recorded in New York City's Avatar Studios. The albums performance configurations range from quintet to quartet to trio to duo.
The title of the work, Joy in Spite of Everything, speaks for itself and the CD opens with the jaunty, upbeat calypso number Easy Healing, featuring the mellow tones of Turner's tenor and Frisell's intricate guitar work over the rhythmic background provided by his compadres.
No Pope No Party features Turner and Frisell sequentially with the trio. This is a more straight ahead, but rhythmically intricate piece, the participants playing off against each other. Alobar e Kudra has a slight air of the mystic East and features the trio players Bollani, Bodilsen and Lund. Las Hortensias is a beautiful, pensive ballad with breathy tenor from Turner interspersed by Bodilsen's lyrical bass work, the other two trio members being in a supportive role.
The twelve minute plus centrepiece, Vale, reintroduces the quintet, still in reflective mood, with Bollani's piano featured. Teddy was written with swing era pianist Teddy Wilson in mind and features the piano – guitar duo of Bollani and Frisell. The guitar is also featured with the trio on Ismene, the melody particularly suiting Frisell's way with a tune. The full quintet are back for Tales From the Time Loop which again showcases the individual skills of the musicians, but also their complex melodic interplay. One can almost sense their interactions and this would be a great gig to see in intimate venue. The CD finishes with the title track Joy in Spite of Everything, which ups the tempo again, to finish on a high.
The were apparently no preconceptions regarding this album, the band were brought together just for the session. As Bollani explains “We went into the studio without all meeting each other. I had never met Bill, neither had Jesper and Morten. And Morten had never played with Mark. But that's what I like about jazz music: You just go in and see what happens”.
Well it certainly happened here – this is a cracking album and a pleasure to listen to. I cannot but agree with ECM's assertion that “Joy in Spite of Everything brims with an indefatigable lightness of spirit despite the inevitable shadows of life”.
Hugh.
The CD was released in the UK on August 25 and is available under the ECM catalogue number 378 4459.

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