Stefano Battaglia Trio Interprets Composer Alec Wilder on New 'In The Morning' [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt on Nov 20, 2015 02:12 PM EST
Stefano Battaglia Trio Stefano Battaglia Trio wants to be remembered as one of the great European jazz trios. (Photo : Caterina di Perri / ECM Records)

For his sixth ECM album, In The Morning, Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia, 50, brings his trio with bassist Salvatore Maiore and drummer Roberto Dani to the music of American composer Alec Wilder [1907-1980] whose songs have been recorded by Peggy Lee, the Mills Brothers and Frank Sinatra. Wilder also composed chamber music, operas and wrote the scholarly tome American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950.

Recorded live at Teatro Vittoria in Torino, Italy, Battaglia thrills the crowd with his extensive knowledge of classical motifs that he uses in the course of his jazz improvisations. Formerly a player of the the kind of Baroque style that spread throughout Europe like a wild fire from approximately 1600 to 1750, once Battaglia heard Keith Jarrett, all bets were off. Maiore was in Billy Cobham's band and recorded with Al DiMeola. Dani played with Annette Peacock yet is most fond of his solo drum concerts and CDs.

The pleasures of In The Morning are subtle yet grand. Dani and Maiore provide blissful, empathetic, calm yet sturdy support. Battaglia's glistening runs-glissandos, arpeggios and obbligatos-make for a rather sweeping style of all-out pianistics to the point of acrobatic dexterity. I swear the dude has 16 fingers on such fare as "When I Am Dead My Dearest," "The Lake Of Innisfree" (which clocks in at 15:41), the 13:17 "River Run," the 11:56 title track, the 11:28 "Chick Lorimer" closer and two more, all written by Alec Wilder.

Stefano Battaglia Trio
(Photo : Caterina di Perri / ECM Records)
Stefano Battaglia Trio take a bow. Encore!

Battaglia is no stranger to concept CDs. His 2003 ECM Raccolto debut honored Bill Evans and Paul Bley. Re: Pasolini in 2007 was in homage to film director Pier Paolo Pasolini. The River of Anyder (2009) and Songways (2012) preceded this, his latest tribute. His goal is to make this trio on a par with such great legendary European trio favorites as Jimmy Giuffre/Paul Bley/Steve Swallow and Bill Evans/Scott La Faro/Paul Motian in the 1960s; Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden/Motian and Bley/Gary Peacock/Motian in the 1970s; and Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonte/Haden and Jarrett/Peacock/Jack DeJohnette in the 1980s. He's off to a heck of a start.

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TagsStefano Battaglia Trio, REVIEW, ECM Records, Alec Wilder

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