BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Italian jazz pianist Stefano Bollani leads an international band on his latest LP Joy in Spite of Everything: bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund, his regular rhythm section, hail from Denmark, while guests Bill Frisell (guitar) and Mark Turner (sax) come from the colonies. The musicians’ experientially wide range comes in handy, as Bollani’s compositions possess a similar breadth. From the straight-on post bop of “No Pope No Party” to the cymbals-heavy balladry of “Las Hortensias,” the Bill Evans melodicism of “Tales From the Time Loop” to the playful calypso of “Easy Healing,” the songs hop all over the stylistic map, less a sign of dilettantism than versatility.
The classically-trained ivory tickler handles everything he throws at himself with virtuoso technique and a sure melodic touch – cue up the Brubeck/Guaraldi melodicism of “Alobar e Kudra” or the creamy blend of classical technique with swing rhythm on the Bollani/Frisell duet “Teddy.” But to really get where Bollani is coming from, spin through “Ismene,” which begins as an almost ambient ballad before getting busy in the middle, “Vale,” which spins as much through dissonant clusters as single line lyricism, or the title track, a fleet-fingered exercise in fun. Joy in Spite of Everything is nearly a survey of various jazz iterations, but Bollani’s impressive playing and obvious, well, joy in running his fingers across the keyboard gives it unity.
DOWNLOAD: “Tales From the Time Loop,” “Joy in Spite of Everything,” “Alobar e Kudra”