AS THE PURITY and subtly impish equilibrium of the sleeve art suggests, the elegant artistry displayed in this trio album, Play, from Italian pianist Michele Di Toro is undeniably breathtaking.
Di Toro’s companions on a recording mainly of originals are Milan-based double bassist Yuri Goloubev and Gallarate-born drummer Marco Zanoli. Together they magically forge delicate chamber jazz, comparable to the gracefulness and exactitude of Italian classical baroque, with Mediterranean finesse and attention to detail reminiscent of the music of Paolo Paliaga (Alboran Trio) and, at times, Stefano Bollani.
Clarity, balance and crisp technical execution are immediately discernible as the album proceeds – but, importantly, there is also the lifeblood of emotional sensitivity which undoubtedly flows through the veins of this music. Lutetia launches the ten-track sequence, characterised by a wistful, seemingly-perpetual (Escher-like) cycle of shifting minor keys which introduces Yuri Goloubev’s unmistakable, deftly cantabile bass soloing; the quickening tempo spotlights both Di Toro’s bright, Jarrett-inspired pianistic style and Marco Zanoli’s incisive, percussive brilliance. There’s a quirky charm to waltzing Ninna Nanna, with its bass harmonics, reverse-processed cymbal scrapes and an amiable development of melody (even a hint of Svensson’s e.s.t.); and the spirited bossa nova of Yuri Goloubev’s Daunted Dance prompts Di Toro and Zanoli to wallow in its unalloyed positivity.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Di Toro’s Corale declares Bachian characteristics as deep, resounding arco bass instils reverence before its exquisitely tempered animation is introduced, including the most sumptuous of melodic extemporisations from the bassist. Marco Zanoli’s Distances sustains the baroque feel (almost referencing Anna Magdalena’s Clavierbüchlein of 1725) in a gently lucid minuet which showcases the precision of each of the players; and Remembering Chopin‘s romantic mood, announced by the pianist’s deeply-felt lyricism, widens into irresistible vivacity. The reticent demeanour of Goloubev’s Joni… suits the trio well as Di Toro eloquently and chromatically paints impressive, broad canvasses of rich colour (Zanoli contributing shimmering shafts of light), whilst pressing miniature Change of Scene(ry) is punctuated with alluringly free explorations.
Very much the essence of 20th Century British classical composition, William Walton relocated in mid-life to the Italian isle of Ischia, so the arrangement of Touch Her Soft Lips and Part (from Walton’s Henry V suite) has a geographical connection here. Its aching beauty clearly finds a resonance with jazz musicians – Pete Erskine just one its interpreters (Time Being, ECM) – and this trio magically stamps it authority on it with measured, bejewelled delicacy (Sir William and Lady Susanna would, I’m sure, vehemently approve of this (to date) most perfectly realised of reinterpretations). Brief Chorale VIII – Ascension closes the album, Goloubev’s bowed variation of the earlier Corale echoing his orchestral past and confirming this trio’s unquestionably informed correlation of jazz and classical worlds.
Play is available from Abeat Records and online retailers. Discover its crystalline beauty.
Michele Di Toro piano
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Marco Zanoli drums
Abeat Records – ABJZ 134 (2014)