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October 2006

Rossano Sportiello
Heart and Soul
Arbors Records

Rossano Sportiello is a 32-year-old Milanese pianist who has been attracting attention on the “trad jazz” circuit in Europe (especially Britain). The liner notes by British jazz journalist Brian Peerless unearth the origins of the golden oldies in Sportiello’s solo repertoire—“I’ll See You in My Dreams,” “Tea for Two,” “Who’s Sorry Now,” etc. Peerless’ annotations take us deep into the shadows of history: 1925 Broadway shows, Myrna Loy movies and Chick Webb hits from 1934.

But Sportiello is an atypical nostalgist. His dexterity is undeniable, but he is only intermittently interested in headlong bravura and bouncing, romping stride tours de force. There is a tone of meditative, dignified melancholy to this album. It comes from pieces like “You’ve Changed” and “More Than You Know.” They trace the closed-ended formal arcs that Sportiello’s stylistic orientation dictates. But within their symmetries he provides extensive, gently liberated internal decoration. His delicate touch conveys considered, civilized adult emotion and a mood of contemplative poignance that’s out of time—but not out of place. The location of the recording, the Old Church in Boswil, Switzerland, is part of the album’s identity. The notes of Sportiello’s Steinway decay toward the church’s high ceiling and recede into its dark corners.

Originally published in October 2006
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