‘The Moon and the Bonfires’ – Roberto Olzer Trio

RobertoOlzerTrio

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.

Available from record label Atelier Sawano and also Yuri Goloubev’s website.

 

Roberto Olzer piano
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Mauro Beggio drums

robertoolzer.com
yurigoloubev.com
maurobeggio.com

Atelier Sawano – AS147 (2015)

‘Mein Beethoven’ – Dieter Ilg

DieterIig

BEETHOVEN AND JAZZ… I sense the classical purists cringing… and maybe the jazz purists squirming. Preconceived thoughts based on the dated ’70s pop-classic era of Waldo de los Rios and James Last, or Jacques Loussier’s fairly literal jazz trio interpretations of J S Bach, possibly spring to mind when such crossover projects are birthed.

But double bassist Dieter Ilg and his colleagues approach their piano trio extemporisations on the incalculably revered works of Ludwig van Beethoven in a less conspicuous manner (having taken on both Wagner and Verdi in previous releases). Describing his 18thC German compatriot as “undoubtedly one of the great improvisers of Europe’s music history, approaching everything with passion, imagination and the will to create something new”, Ilg seeks to embody that spirit of invention in thirteen pieces for bass, piano (Rainer Böhm) and drums (Patrice Héral).

Some selections are more familiar than others, but even the recognisable phrases of Pathétique and Moonlight sonatas break away from their moorings sufficiently to flow into new, undiscovered rivulets. In Ode, the life-affirming stature of the final movement of the 9th Symphony (famously the ‘Ode to Joy’) is translated into serene impressionism, Böhm’s lush piano chords painting steadfastness from a different viewpoint. There’s drama, too, as Sturm (Klaviersonate no. 17, op. 31) broods and then vigorously swirls to Böhm’s rapid runs, Ilg’s rasping bass and Héral’s drum solidity; and it’s entrancing to hear how the trio reinterpret the string quartet tension of the Grosse Fuge (op. 133) into a greatly improvised work, Fuge, which maintains reference to the master’s compositional characteristics.

Illustrating clearly the intentions of this project, an audacious adaptation of the Arietta from final Piano Sonata no. 32 (op. 111) takes its usual solemnity off into unpredictable territory; Böhm’s deft chromaticism here rolls freely over the turbulence of bass and drums – and whilst such a transformation may sound crass, it creates a perfectly plausible jazz trio number which respects its origins (in Dieter’s words – my Beethoven). Ilg’s bass technique is strong and supple, ranging from the bluesy pliancy displayed in 109 to his rapidity in the Allegro from the Pathétique sonata (this, a particularly demanding number which demonstrates the remarkable unity of these slick musicians).

Listen again to Alfred Brendel, Daniel Barenboim or Paul Lewis (the majority of Ilg’s creations, here, are based on the piano sonatas) and it’s incomprehensible, of course, that the beauty and majesty of Beethoven’s sublime works could ever be surpassed. However, there’s fascination to be found in these perceptive piano trio reworkings – with or without comparison to the originals – which provide an absorbing and, at times, pleasingly disorientating sound world.

Released in the UK on 2 February 2015, further information on Mein Beethoven can be found at ACT Music.

 

Dieter Ilg bass
Rainer Böhm piano
Patrice Héral drums

dieterilg.de

ACT Music – ACT 9582-2 (2015)