In the present age of highly refined inside-the-changes jazz, when hard-core, pre-Trane boppers have all but vanished, the Italian pianist Antonio Farao is among the most refined of all. This perfect improviser is a virtuoso of technique, rhythm and harmony. His touch is medium (right hand) to light (simple left-hand comping) and he spins clean, bright melodic lines full of rhythmic variety and jagged or twisting shapes. True, three ballads are meandering, highly decorated, without melodic or structural interest. The other six tracks are fast in tempo (only "Caravan" is not a Farao original) and distinguished by straightforward linear invention. This music flows: whimsical digressions, complexities, funk or block-chord evasions, for example, are not Farao's way when he's cooking.
Farao's trio includes bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jack DeJohnette. While DeJohnette's interplay of cross-rhythms may seem overly dense to the listener, it obviously inspires Farao, and that's most important. Revival tenor/soprano saxman Chris Potter joins on four tracks; he serves best to dramatize the hard-bop ingenuity of Farao's themes such as the aptly titled "Thorn," full of rhythmic tricks; "Arabesco," made of stalking stop-time; and "Epoche," in a mysterious meter or meters. This CD's highlights include Farao's solos in the title piece and in "Preludio," which begins with a nice Metheny-folky theme.