Pegged years ago by the late Kenny Kirkland as a rising piano star, Antonio Farao has realized his potential and established himself as one of Europe's most respected young players. The Italian pianist teamed his trio with tenor saxophonist Bob Berg for this CD made less than two months before Berg's death in a traffic accident in December 2002. Farao and Berg were a perfectly matched pair, technical whizzes and masters of an international style not centered in the obvious characteristics of any country or jazz idiom. Their uptempo playing here has high energy and a determined swing growing out of relentless forward movement. It has color and dynamism, even passion, but little overt humor or anything in the way of quotes or other obvious reference points to make it accessible to the casual listener.
The medium-tempo and slower pieces are another matter. Farao converts "How High the Moon?" into a forthright 4/4 composition, "Cat Steps," whose familiar harmonic pattern provides a listening key. "Andalusia," Farao's modish take on Iberian romanticism, is reminiscent in mood of "All Blues" and "Flamenco Sketches" and has a riveting piano solo. "Walking With My Soul" is a trio piece with harmonic simplicity that would render it boring if not for Farao's dazzling playing with a touch as light as Ellis Larkins'. "Fields" is a waltz in which Farao and Berg achieve lyricism, as they do on the lilting "Simple" and "For My Friend," a ballad that deserves better lyrics. Bassist Martin Gjakonovski and drummer Dejan Terzic integrate effectively throughout with Farao and Berg.