Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything (ECM/Ode)

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Stefano Bollani: No Pope No Party
Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything (ECM/Ode)

Although this album gets credited above to the witty, inventive and very lively Italian pianist Stefano Bollani (familiar from albums with trumpeter Enrico Rava), the Danish rhythm section of bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund will also be known to followers of the ECM label (again through the Rava connection) . . . although perhaps not as familiar as the other two players, the shapeshifting tenor player Mark Turner (from Billy Hart's bands) and brilliant guitarist Bill Frisell.

So this is quite some collusion of talent and ideas across these nine Bollani originals, and the reference points frequently shift between the buoyant end of Sonny Rollins' calypso style (Easy Healing), allusions to the staccato angularity and clipped melodic lines of Ornette Coleman (No Pope No Party where Frisell unveils his most fluid melodicism in a sheen of distinctive sound and Bollani's solo will put a smile on your face) and through to North African references (Alobar e Kudra).

The title track at the end alternates between a flurry of bumble-bee busyness and delicately swinging classic piano-trio playing, Tales from the Time Loop allows Frisell to create the slightly gravity-denying ambience and ethereally space-trip context before a lovely solo by Turner, and a high point is the 12 minute centrepiece Vale which is somewhere between elegant romance and misty film noir.

There's a lot of information packed into these generous 76 minutes, but the impression you'll take away at the end was bannered to you right at the start: Joy, in spite of everything.

A sheer, understated delight. 

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