Stefano Bollani: Stone In The Water (ECM 2080)

Stone In The Water

Stefano Bollani
Stone In The Water

Stefano Bollani piano
Jesper Bodilsen double-bass
Morten Lund drums
Recorded October 2008 at Avatar Studios, New York
Engineer: James A. Farber
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Italian pianist Stefano Bollani, last heard alongside mentor Enrico Rava on The Third Man, leads a hip Danish rhythm section of bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund for this colorful trio outing.

“Dom de iludir” is one of two Brazilian songs featured in the set and a personal favorite of Bollani. Written by Caetano Veloso, it intros with a pianistic staircase that leads us into the album’s mosaic of light and shadow. As brushed drums and bass saunter their way into frame, Bodilsen’s heartfelt solo giving early tell of the trio’s balladic core, we know we’ve come home. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Brigas nunca mais” closes the South American circle with fluted, martini-glass contours. Between these tunes are two more by Bodilsen, whose sweeping “Orvieto” channels Chick Corea, with whom Bollani would of course collaborate on an album of the same name. Contrasting this waterfall of sparkle and shine is the bar-lit “Edith,” which folds and unfolds a promise of love until it dissolves. In both tracks, the composer burns in the atmosphere by means of a deep pyrography, all the while retaining an optimistic sheen.

Aside from the trio’s fluid take on “Improvisation 13 en la mineur” by the (in Bollani’s estimation) underappreciated French composer Francis Poulenc and notable for Lund’s tactile engagement, the remaining tracks mine original Bollani ore exclusively. Much to this listener’s delight, the Latin undercurrent established at the outset colors the tender drivenness throughout, particularly in the nostalgia-laden “Asuda” and the concluding “Joker in the village,” prime vehicles both for bassist and drummer, respectively, who mix colors with such integrity that even Bollani’s textural authority can seem but sand to their waves.

That said, the leader elicits the album’s deepest moments by far in the aerial flyby that is “Un sasso nello stagno,” for which he soars and descends with the kind of precision that only years of flying experience can entail, and above all in “Il cervello del pavone,” one of the most fascinating trio cuts in the entire ECM catalogue. With its elliptical riffs and pointillist segues, it fills in the all the right gaps with tactful charm and understands that mastery comes only through a balance of groundedness and letting go.

(To hear samples of Stone In The Water, click here.)

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