Rita Marcotulli & Luciano Biondini – La Strada Invisibile
(ACT 9627-2. Duo Art Series. CD review by Jon Turney)
Classically-trained pianist Rita Marcotulli is one of those brilliant Europeans who carve stellar jazz careers but tend to pass the UK by. She did record at Ronnie Scott’s with Dewey Redman a couple of decades ago, and her beautifully poised duo with Andy Sheppard is documented on CD and is due for an outing in Gateshead in April, but many other projects have gone more or less unnoticed here.
Good, then, to see this duo outing with the equally virtuosic accordionist Luciano Biondini – with whom she also works in a regular quartet – on a major label. And a fine set it is. Both instruments have orchestral potential so a duo does not seem in the least restrictive, while the concentration on just two players affords full expression to their obvious empathy, and shared devotion to wringing emotion from soulful European melodies.
Of the dozen pieces on this date, six are Marcotulli originals, with another three from her partner, and the set is rounded out by one standard and a couple of appealing Italian songs. Sometimes they are decorous, with the players stepping neatly round each other, or commenting wittily on each other’s contributions. There are plenty of headlong unison passages, too, and joyous counterpoint – the liquid sound of the accordion swooping above and diving beneath the piano’s more percussive attack – to quicken the pulse.
The result is mostly music with a smile on its face, that will appeal to those who enjoy, say, Chick Corea’s duos with Gary Burton. But the duo have reflective moments, as well, on an affecting treatment of Jimmy Webb’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, on Marcotulli’s Tuareg, and on the closing Stagione, Biondini’s tune. It’s a delightful, well-balanced programme, full of good things, that furnishes a lovely introduction to the accordionist’s work and should do much to help Marcotulli’s reputation grow nearer to matching her achievement.