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Dado Moroni: Live in Beverly Hills

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Some of the best piano players in jazz today come from Italy, like Stefano Bollani, Enrico Pieranunzi, Danilo Rea and Stefano Battaglia. Dado Moroni belongs on the list, although he is atypical. He is self-taught, not conservatory trained. His version of Italian jazz romanticism is percussive, rhythmically relentless and blues-based.

Live in Beverly Hills is a trio session with bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Peter Erskine. The opener, Moroni’s “Ghanian Village,” sets the tone. Its cumulative complex energy builds from a fidgety ritual dance. Moroni’s inexorable left hand powers it and his right hand elaborates it, hammering into surprising melodies. Along the way Erskine injects a deft, deadpan solo. “Django” is a fundamental text for jazz piano players; only Moroni would turn John Lewis’ ceremonial eulogy into funk. “Where Is Love?” becomes impressionism with a hard touch and tough love. “Vitti Na Crozza” is a Sicilian folk lullaby that Moroni’s sister sang to him when he was a child. It is as gentle as the pianist gets, but even here the emotion, as it clarifies, makes him dig in.

Producer George Klabin invited an audience into the studio and the ploy worked. This album, which comes with a DVD, has the communal spontaneous vibe of a live recording. Many of the DVDs that accompany jazz CDs these days are pedestrian and superfluous, but this one is worthwhile. It does not get much of the recording space or the audience and, oddly, does not come in Dolby Digital 5.1. But the constantly shifting camera angles and close-ups and overlays provide special insight into this trio’s collective creative process. It’s fun to watch a master like Erskine work from right over his shoulder, and to witness the charisma and joy with which Moroni presides over the keyboard.

Originally Published