Pianist Stefano Bollani, a Milanese but with Naples in his heart. That North/South element is still there, I guess it will always be, if I have learnt anything.
With his new album, Napoli Trip, which was released recently on Decca, Bollani manages to capture an essence that is not just difficult to get, but almost impossible. The only other Italian musician I can think of that achieved this was the late singer-songwriter, Pino Daniele, a master of story-telling and musicality.
But back to Bollani as I do not believe in comparisons, not even when they are made as compare-and-contrast. Let’s just say that this new work by the Italian pianist is a careful depiction of life, colours and moods from that wonderful region of Italy called Campania where Naples (Napoli) is the capital.
Bollani’s art is in the detail; notes are fluid, compositions innovative. There is such beauty in his rendition of the famous ’O Sole Mio to the modern Maschere (masks). Nino Gori on clarinet and Daniele Sepe on saxophone and flute are outstanding. The overall playing is smooth.
Putesse Essere Allero, written by the late Pino Daniele, is two minutes of moving joy.
Bollani says “Napoli. A parallel universe in which I often wander, alone or with companions. And this time there are a lot of friends who helped me paint this fresco”. I admire the way Bollani expresses his devotion and love for Naples, a town of many contrasts, with a multi-layered culture, of light and dark.
Listen to Napoli’s Blues – a mixture of jazz and tarantella sounds in a performance of just 1.19. Purely performed.
Another track to be singled out is ’O Guappo ‘Nnammurato (The Dude In Love) which reminds me of those beautiful black and white films with the iconic Toto (the Italian actor, also known as Antonio De Curtis).
We are also treated to Bollani’s velvet tones when he not only plays piano but also sings on Guapparia 2000. Masterfully, here he sings, “che bella professione la napolineta’ ’” (what a beautiful profession being Neapolitan is). We continue listening and finish with Reginella, the realisation of a true classic made even better by Bollani.
With so many collaborations under his belt, one of them being with jazz trumpeter Enrico Rava, Bollani has passed from ECM to Decca, still producing albums like this which deserves praise, time and huge applause.