Stefano Bollani and Hamilton de Holanda ‘O que será’ (ECM) 4/5

Here is a duet with a difference. Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and Brazilian guitarist Hamilton de Holanda first met on stage at a festival in Austria in 2009 when they played two pieces together. Discovering that had much musically in common, the duet then performed once again for a complete show in 2011 and repeated the thoroughly enjoyable experience in August 2012 at the Antwerp Jazz festival from which this recording has been taken. The pairing of piano and guitar will recall for many Bill Evans and Jim Hall, but perhaps a more pertinent modern duet might be that of Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton. Bollani, in his previous releases as both sideman and leader for ECM, has revealed a genuine passion for Brazilian music as exemplified on a duo with Chick Corea ‘Orvieto’, Enrico Rava’s ‘The third man’, and his very own trio on ‘Stone in the water’. The selection of material is an update on the Brazilian songbook which avoids the obvious and instead focuses on composers such as Edu Lobo, Pixinguinha and maestros Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes. An immediate intimacy and empathy emerges from the concert with the two engaging in some fine duet performances with intricate rhythm patterns illustrated by Bollani’s own piece ‘Il Barbone di Siviglia’ while on ‘Caprichos de España, it is the guitarist who takes the lead. A joyous rendition of the title track, something of an anthem in Brazil for its author, Chico Buarque, receives a pared down interpretation with the piano played as if the number were a nursery rhyme. For a wondrous uplifting experience, the samba-jazz of ‘Canto de Ossanha’ fits the bill admirably. The introspective opener ‘Beatriz’ is the only nod to an Evanesque agenda. A fine set of numbers that largely bypasses bossa nova territory to capture the post-tropicalia flavours of Brazil in a whole new surrounding. Tim Stenhouse