Danilo Blaiotta Trio ‘Departures’ CD (Filibusta) 4/5

Having recently heard the exquisite and inventive piano playing of Danilo Blaiotta on guitarist Andrea Gomellini’s release “The Gift”, I was intrigued to discover how the Italian pianist transferred his skills to the traditional trio format. Inspired by, above all, Keith Jarrett along with music from the French 1900s, “Departures” doesn’t disappoint.

Despite his prodigious career as a concert performer of classical music, Blaiotta is widely known as one of the young talents in Italian jazz circles. Having studied with John Taylor, Kenny Werner, Larry Grenadier and Avishai Cohen, it’s easy to see why he is now coming to the fore as one of Europe’s most sought-after jazz musicians.

“Dispatches” does have a very European feel to it. Alongside the pianist is bassist Jacopo Ferrazza and drummer Valerio Vantaggio. Together the trio performs a selection of original compositions, along with a couple of standards. The trio was formed by Blaiotta in 2017 and they have quickly succeeded in finding their own voice. This is very much a traditional jazz trio album, but the classical elements of the multi-styled compositions really do bring a sense of freshness and adventure to the trio’s music.

The opening track “Claude” is dedicated to Debussy’s music. It’s a thrilling piece that brings together jazz and classical music, with some lovely lyricism at its heart. I am reminded of Brad Mehldau’s “Art of the trio” releases on “Gioco d’azzardo”. Blaiotta’s playing has that lovely Mehldau melancholic lilt here, with a charming demeanour. The energetic and theatrical “The Devil’s Kitchen” sounds a little like an old EST piece, one of those tunes that would certainly get the crowd going if performed live. “Into the blue” is a Bill Evans tribute, and the great man himself would have been proud of this, the trio showing their thoughtful, delicate side, resulting in a gorgeous and emotive piece of music. There are definitely some Keith Jarrett influences in the pianist’s playing, with the spellbinding trickery of “No Waltz” and the emotively spaced title track “Departures”, both taking a leaf out of the legend’s book. The wonderful standard “There will never be another you” is followed by “Feelings”, a piece that compositionally and performance wise is reminiscent of an old Steve Kuhn piece, definitely no bad thing. There’s even time for the trio to finish with their free-flowing take on Miles’ classic “Solar”.

There’s plenty to like here from this expressive European trio. Intuitive playing, skillfully executed, one can only see this trio going from strength to strength in the future.

Mike Gates