Stefano Bollani ‘Joy in spite of everything’ (ECM) 4/5

stefano-bollaniAutumn beckons and with it a slice of retro jazz that harks back to the era of Monk, Bud Powell and the films Federico Fellini. For this all original composition new recording, Italian pianist Bollani has called up his Transatlantic quintet, by which he means a US component comprising guitarist Bill Frisell and tenor saxophonist (whose album as a leader will be reviewed here shortly), while the Scandinavian rhythm section is made up of fellow Danes bassist Jesper Bodksen and drummer Morten Lund. The joyous opener ‘Easy healing’ with its infectious piano riff features some sweet sounding tenor who is very much in the Hank Mobley and Stanley Turrentine school of saxophonists and there is a delicate folk-blues solo from Frisell. Some might quibble about the inclusion of Frisell in this formation. In fact his presence is only felt in part on the album as a whole with him taking a largely secondary role and when he does finally come out of his shell and take centre stage, his solo is very much up to par as on his somewhat obtuse contribution to the nearly twelve and a half minute ‘Vale’. Bollani uses various formations within the quintet to tailor his message and on the free flowing ‘Alobar and Kudu’ it is the trio that begins proceedings with some choice Latin vamps from the leader. On the gentle ballad ‘Las Hortensias’ pianist and tenorist duet effectively while the tribute to swing jazz pianist Teddy Wilson ‘Teddy’ is a vehicle for some interplay between pianist and guitarist. Only an Italian could conjur up a title as playful as ‘No Pope no Party’ and this proves to be a neo-bop number in which Bollani displays his obvious affection for piano players of the past. Overall, this is a most cohesive unit and one in which the musicians clearly revel in each other’s company. Stefano Bollani will feature in a brief UK appearance in duet with Hamilton de Holanda (together they recorded ‘O Que Sera’ on ECM last year) as part of the London Jazz festival on 20 November.

Tim Stenhouse