PREVIEW: Rossano Sportiello (UK Tour Dates 22 May – 5 June

Rossano Sportiello and Dave Green.
Brighton, 2018
Photo credit: David Forman

Rossano Sportiello is an Italian-born, New York-based pianist. He will be touring the UK and has a total of thirteen dates in May and June, some of them solo piano recitals, and some in a trio with bassist Dave Green and drummer Steve Brown. Sebastian found out more:

Pianist Rossano Sportiello comes from the Milan/Lombardy region of Italy, but has been based in New York for just over a decade. He tours Europe for up to four months a year. I asked him first about his activity in New York: “There is a club here in New York City, down town, called Mezzrow’s. In this place I’ll have maybe two weekends every year where I’ll play with my own trio or sometimes also with other musicians. Recently, I did a residency with Ken Peplowksi, the clarinet player. And I also get the chance to play there with Harry Allen, another fantastic tenor saxophone player, with whom I get the chance to work a lot.” Another regular colleague on the New York scene is lively Australian-born singer/bassist (and former student of both Ray Brown and Rufus Reid) Nicki Parrott with whom he has also recorded.

Barry Harris once described Sportiello as the best player of stride piano he had ever heard, but Sportiello has a stylistic range that goes way beyond that. So I asked him about the kind of programmes which UK audiences can expect: “It’s probably going to be 80-90% jazz, regular standards, but there is always present in each performance a bit of classical music by surprise.”

The classical/jazz ventures are a Sportiello hallmark. His process is analogous to what happens to the standard jazz repertoire “When you play a song, you expose the melody and then you improvise based on those chords of the melody, this can also be applied to classical music, There are so many beautiful melodies that you can just play and then use them as a template for improvisation. That’s the concept.” He has recorded a whole album with music by Chopin, one based on Schubert music, and a third derived from Liszt. He released his most recent solo CD a year and half ago. “I used a Debussy piece as an introduction to Lush Life,” says Sportiello. “And then there is a piece from Khachaturian that I took and made it into a Jazz Waltz. I try to keep the element of classical musical constant in my concerts, because I think that this gives a nice element of surprise.”

I was curious if, like a lot of jazz pianists, the colourful harmonic palette of Ravel interested and inspired him? His reply was that in general it is not an area for him; and in essence there are plenty earlier composers for him to work on fruitfully: “I’m aware of pianists here that are very into Ravel – I suppose some of these later jazz players like Bill Evans chords that are very reminiscent of Ravel. I haven’t worked yet on compositions by these later composers like Ravel, Rachmaninoff, and Scriabin – but I’m getting much more aware that the so-called jazz harmony that we play, that vocabulary comes entirely from that world. But, to me, it appeals more to dig into the romantic and classical periods and turn that into jazz, because that vocabulary is very different from the jazz vocabulary, so the transition becomes even more of a surprise.”


22 May Eastleigh, the Concorde Club
24 May Aberdeen, Queen’s Cross Church
25 May Aberdeen, Haddo House
26 May Herts Jazz St. Albans, The Maltings Arts Centre
28 May Westbury, Wiltshire The Laverton
29 May Wavendon, the Stables (trio)
30 May, Shepperton, Harri’s Jazz, Bagster House
31 May and 1 June Cheadle, private concert by invitation only
2 June Bolton, private House Concert
3 June Cambridge
4 June Brighton, The Verdict
5 June London, Kansas Smitty’s

Feature produced with additional help from Poppy Koronka

LINK: Review from Aberdeen in 2017

Categories: Previews

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