Since moving to London in 2008, Calabria born pianist Maurizio Minardi has released three studio albums, each with various themes and instrumentation. “Piano Ambulance”, his fourth album, is a piano trio plus one. Minardi on piano, Nick Pini double bass, Jason Reeve drums and Shirley Smart cello. Routed firmly in the European classical tradition, but with enough free spirit to allow us use of the phrase “classical/jazz crossover”, in truth the album falls into neither camp particularly well… But this is a good thing. Perhaps what would better describe this release is that of one man’s journey through a lyrical, emotional, interwoven walk of life. “April Sun” starts out as a procession, an uphill march, before allowing a short pause for thought, then onward once again but at a canter. Much of the album moves thus, quick, slow, quiet, louder, quiet again, quick quick slow… A yearning for lost love inflects “Dangerous Innocence”. I love this track’s clever mix of calm on the outside, with an excitable and impatient Cinematic Orchestra style backbeat kicking on the inside. Many of Minardi’s compositions have a child like innocence and fragility, none truer than on the gorgeous “Friday Almost”. But a change of pace is always just around the corner and there is a brightness of spirit and youthful exuberance to “Goodbye London”… An animated rush of the blood that captures a hustle and bustle of life and brings to mind a certain character: I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date! An onlooker with a stoic reverence is how one might describe “Indulgence” – a stiff upper lip type of tune old boy. The title track “Piano Ambulance” (I’ve no idea why it’s called that…it doesn’t really evoke sad thoughts of a piano taking its last breath in a London ambulance…hmm, or does it?), is one of my favourite tracks on the album. A tuneful remembrance, bringing to mind many memories and reflections on life. The journey takes a few more interesting diversions before coming to an end with “Seven Sisters”, an acceptance of who we are and an affirmation of all the things that brought us to this place.
There is undoubtedly a lyrical beauty that runs through the entire album, with enough twists and turns to make it a rewarding listen. For me though, it’s just a little too formulaic and a tad too clinical. Imagine Michael Nyman piano music played by Jaques Lousier with Lars Danielson orchestrating the bass and cello over some lovely Tigran and Einaudi compositions and you’re just about there. The quartet embark on a UK journey imminently, beginning in London with their album launch at The Vortex on 18th February, driving northwards to various venues throughout March.