Augusto Pirodda is a minimalist. He plays few piano notes but chooses them carefully. “Choose” may be the wrong verb. Pirodda is a committed improviser who trusts the moment. The notes he chooses are the first ones; from there, intuition and emotion guide his fingers.
The titles suggest this album’s unqualified openness to possibility: “No Comment,” “I Don’t Know,” “So?” On all of them, Pirodda hesitantly, cautiously postulates a simple, bare figure. It leads him into a gesture of melody, whose elaboration and subtle intensification is organic. Pirodda’s distilled forms, his nuanced intrusions on silence, his meditative probings, draw the listener into his world. The limitation of this music is that, once Pirodda has the listener’s attention, he does not provide enough compelling ideas, let alone lyrical revelations. His intelligent, pleasant content is often rather plain, like moody filler.
Yet this piano trio is continuously stimulating because of its bassist, Gary Peacock, and drummer, Paul Motian. Peacock, with his haunting, sinuous lines and his flawless instinct for dark drama, is the lead voice almost as often as Pirodda. Even when the bassist stays in the background, as on “So?,” the ominous tick-tock of his two-note vamp defines the atmosphere. Motian’s loose, deadpan patter is pregnant with implication and mystery, but always has purpose. Motian sets the spatial parameters within which this music occurs, and he conducts direct question-and-answer exchanges with Pirodda. The piano hovers in an interrogatory arc. The drums tap and rattle a conclusion.
All the tunes are originals or group improvisations. It would have been interesting to hear Pirodda’s trio apply its differentiated creative process to one standard.