Friday, November 27, 2009

Total Bollani

Stefano Bollani's 'I Visionari', Kings Place, London Jazz Festival, Saturday 21st November 2009

Pianist Stefano Bollani had a busy week at the London Jazz Festival, being in residence over four nights at King's Place with a different set of musicians each time. The I Visionari Sextet was the last of these on the final Saturday night. There's no doubting Bollani has considerable ability and technique, but I'm not sure things fell into place this evening. There was a sense that it wasn't gelling, and the players looked tired despite putting in a sterling effort. The ability of players to come together for an evening is one of the great things about jazz, but it can also be one of its frustrations, and sometimes there’s no beating a well rehearsed group. I don’t know how often these players get together, but it didn’t feel tight. One of the things I like about Polar Bear for example, is that they play together all the time, and the consequent rock solidity knocks you over the head from the first bar.

So to the music. Well of course there was some great stuff in here. The simple uplifting opening ditty based around a major to minor-major movement was pleasing enough. There was some great playing from Enrico Rava on the second tune, and a gripping dark double bass solo on the third. Other tracks paid their dues to requisite angular quirkiness, and a ‘Black Orpheus’ style latin groove track was one of the highlights of this second set. Bollani then introduced us to a soundtrack suite to close the evening, one that apparently has been rejected by the producers of the film it was intended for. The first section revolved around a rising bass line beneath a minory groove, appropriately portraying a late night jazz feel. The main section consisted of a two chord groove that didn’t quite happen and flagged from being over long. A highpoint was what seemed like an afterthought encore solo piece that did contain some very impressive playing. The final track demised into some awkward humour that seemed staged, and is probably best forgotten.

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