Stefano Bollani – Joy In Spite Of Everything
(ECM 378 4459. Review by Mike Collins)
Only the stoniest of hearts could resist the charm of Easy Healing, the opening track of this album from a dream transatlantic quintet, formed for the occasion from Stefano Bollani’s regular trio combined with two of the most individual voices from the other side of the pond: Mark Turner and Bill Frisell. The atmosphere is somewhere between the Caribbean and central Africa with Frisell sounding like he might be channelling the legendary Franco, dropping pretty phrases over Bollani’s muted, rock steady left hand stroking out a calypso. This was quite plausibly a loosener, as none of Bollani, drummer Morten Lund or bass player Jesper Bodilsen had met Bill Frisell before the session and Lund had not played with Turner previously, but it’s a delight with eddies of notes from Turner mingling with answering flurries from the piano over an extended collective vamp out,to set the tone for the rest of a set packed with conversation and interaction.
There is no doubting this is a Stefano Bollani release with the compositions reflecting his expansive approach. After the calypso, No Pope No Party is a straight-ahead swinger, all Monkish motifs and displaced phrases. Rhythmic jousting between piano and tenor gives way to a burning Turner solo. Alobar e Kudra, a piano trio number, is a dancing piece with a middle eastern flavour to the theme, Las hortensias a dreamy tune with a melancholic chant-like theme that develops a steady, even pulse for a vintage tenor solo and extended duo conversation with the piano. The piano and guitar duo Teddy is a playful saunter but the haunting, delicate and balladic Ismene really makes the most of the blending of Bollani and Frisell’s fertile imaginations. There are some extended pieces, Vale and Tales from the Time loop which give the full quintet opportunity to stretch out. Lund and Bodilsen get relatively few features, but they are breathing as one with Bollani and bring life and colour to the music throughout. The closing trio number, the title track Joy In Spite Of Everything, is a trademark Bollani tour de force, taken at break-neck tempo threatening to become blistering bop, now a samba, now hinting at a Kurt Weill like galloping cabaret.
This album is a real treat. If this is what a single meeting creates, the prospect of a few live performances would be truly mouth-watering.