Cd_stefanobollani_span3
12/29/13

Stefano Bollani/Hamilton de Holanda
O Que Sera
ECM Records

Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and the Brazilian bandolim (10-string mandolin) virtuoso Hamilton de Holanda are of a single mind on their first recorded collaboration, a live 2012 duets set captured in Antwerp. Bollani has dabbled in the Brazilian canon previously, and his affinity for the country’s rhythms and sensibilities is proven. He and de Holanda work through a single original composition each, and Brazilian material from stalwarts Jobim, Pixinguinha, Baden Powell/Vinicius de Moraes and others. Throughout, they sync so tightly and naturally that it’s often unclear who, if anyone, is calling the shots.

On the Chico Buarque-penned title track, de Holanda answers his own short bursts of notes repeatedly until, at nearly a minute in, you realize that Bollani has already been right behind him for half the intro. It unfolds determinedly from there, Bollani continuing to supply chordal support to de Holanda’s chirpy melodic ramblings until, by the close, it’s Bollani who’s pushing into a new place altogether. “Oblivión,” by the Argentinean tango icon Astor Piazzolla, is both sexy and genteel in its easy cadences; the opening “Beatriz,” by Buarque and Edu Lobo, is courtly enough to approximate a baroque classical piece.

What both musicians thrive on here, and count on, is the other’s ability to stay on top of where a piece is headed at any given moment. The breakneck-paced “Apanhei-te Cavaquinho,” the show closer, becomes sophisticated cartoon music in their hands, the pair chasing each other so breathlessly you wonder if the whole thing might just implode. It doesn’t.

Originally published in December 2013
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