Stefano Battaglia Trio ‘In The Morning’ (ECM) 4/5

stefano-battaglia-trioPiano trios are becoming something of a speciality within the Italian jazz fraternity and now reaching the venerable age of fifty, leader and pianist Stefano Battaglia demonstrates why he is one of the leading exponents in both his country and on the European continent with this live recording from the Teatro Vittoria in Turin in April 2014. Parallels with the Bill Evans trio and even Keith Jarrett are valid and will be made given the introspective nature of the music contained within, though Battaglia is most influenced by the style and work of Paul Bley and to a lesser extent by that of Jarrett. However, Battaglia is very much his own man and devotes the album to an exploration of the major, yet lesser known composers of what has become known as the great American songbook in Alec Wilder. For those not already familiar with his body of work, his compositions have been recorded by a bevvy of star singers including Judy Garland, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra among others. Double bassist Salvatore Maiore and drummer Roberto Dani complete the line-up and the fact that there is only a four year gap between all the trio members may account for the natural empathy between the constituent parts of the trio. The lengthy, languid opener of the title track unfolds with a mounting of tension while Battaglia is at his most melodic on the quiet introspection of ‘When I am dead by dearest’ and there is glorious supportive work from the rest of the rhythm section here. One of the most endearing of all Wilder pieces is ‘River run’ and Battaglia is on fire with cascading piano rolls that create several layers of sound.
Alec Wilder not only composed, but equally wrote about music with his book, ‘American popular song. The great innovators 1900-1950’ a very worthy read. A number covered by Jarrett, ‘Moon and Soul’, receives a treatment that is at once subtle and tender, caressing the melody tenderly. Previous recordings have been similarly theme focused with ‘Pasolini’ from 2007 noteworthy and locations prominent as in ‘Songways’ from 2012. A fine way to end the year and once again an ECM recording of distinction with impeccable sound as ever.

Tim Stenhouse