THE ATTRACTION of the Italian jazz piano trio continues to wax both luminously and poetically – and none more so than pianist Robert Olzer and colleagues Yuri Goloubev (double bass) and Mauro Beggio (drums).
Olzer was born in northern Italy, studying piano from an early age before going on to graduate in organ, piano and jazz improvisation in Milan. His trio was founded in 2011, previously releasing acclaimed debut album Steppin’ Out in 2013. The inspiration for this latest album, curiously titled The Moon and the Bonfires, is actually drawn from a novel of the same name by Italian writer Cesare Pavese; and Olzer sees something of his own musical career path in its theme – the need to constantly broaden horizons, yet also return to and preciously hold fast to one’s roots.
Comprising a variety of originals and arrangements – including impressions of Schumann and Poulenc – this recording exudes a passion and precision which appears to be synonymous with chamber jazz from this cultural confluence (as in the output of Giovanni Guidi, Michele Di Toro, the Alboran Trio, etc.). It may be an innate classical connection, cultivating the sublimity and deftness of touch associated with the music of, say, Locatelli or Albinoni; but somehow Olzer, Goloubev and Beggio suspend time with their magical partnership, either in intense rhythmic fervour or through exquisite, tenuto pools of quiet.
In all honesty, these eleven tracks have called me back so often, each encounter glinting a little differently; and, presided over by Stefano Amerio at the lauded Artesuono studios, the album’s clarity is assured. From the yearning yet mobile delicacy of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Bibo no Aozora (introduced by the open, romantic lyricism of Olzer’s piano solo, La bella estate) to Enrico Pieranunzi’s pressing Seaward, there is indubitable balance. The tender Andante from Poulenc’s Piano Concerto is re-imagined in the trio’s Adagio (from Piano Concerto), Goloubev’s characteristically-voiced arco lines serenely reflecting Olzer’s fragile water droplets; and the depth of the bassist’s lachrymose Little Requiem echoes Beethoven and hints at Tord Gustavsen, whilst his pizzicato extemporisations ensure a certain brightness.
Victor Young’s Beautiful Love (yes, that may trigger thoughts of Bing Crosby) is whisked away, almost unrecognisably, into a realm uplifted by Mauro Beggio’s delightful perpetuum mobile accuracy; and Robert Schumann’s emotional ‘lied’, Ich will meine Seele tauchen, is similarly disguised, but within a purposeful, contemporary waltz. It’s the subtleties which speak volumes throughout this session, title track La luna e i falo full of contrasts as Olzer’s lucidly rippling ostinati come up against fiery block chords and a solid percussive display; and Chris Collins’ fabulously-titled Gaelic romp, Muirruhgachs, Mermaids, and Mami Wata is unexpectedly calmed by Sting’s Wrapped Around Your Finger before its jaunty piano-and-bass reel is slammed with the full force of Beggio’s batteria – such joy! Completing the sequence, Goloubev paints watercolour images in Le Vieux Charme, and Olzer’s Chàrisma leaps energetically to his vigorously ornamented display.
Packaged within appealingly minimal cover art, The Moon and the Bonfires burns increasingly brightly in my estimation.
Roberto Olzer piano
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Mauro Beggio drums
Atelier Sawano – AS147 (2015)