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Simone Graziano: Snailspace (Auand)

Review of a trio album led by the Italian pianist

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Cover of Snailspace album by Simone Graziano
Cover of Snailspace album by Simone Graziano

Just as the U.S. jazz community is finally figuring out that some of the best piano players are Italians (Stefano Bollani, Stefano Battaglia, Enrico Pieranunzi, Danilo Rea), a promising new generation of pianists from Italy is coming up, including Giovanni Guidi, Enrico Zanisi, and Giampiero Locatelli.

Enter Simone Graziano, whose Snailspace is a trio album on which young Italian badasses gather. Like so many European jazz pianists, Graziano started in classical music. But he is different because, when he left the conservatory for jazz, he took more of his classical sensibility with him. Unlike his peers, Graziano almost never cuts loose and drowns you in his virtuosity. Snailspace contains four- to six-minute miniature jazz suites as precise and orderly as minuets. His concept is established with the opening track, “Tbilisi.” A cyclic bass figure from Francesco Ponticelli is taken up by Graziano, and the two create a quiet, spellbinding groove. When the piano spins off, it is not to improvise a solo but to expand the design by overlaying a new pattern. Drummer Tommy Crane’s brushes form another pattern, almost subliminal. Graziano adds a further layer with a synthesizer, an aural carpet at the bottom.

Pieces like “Accident A” and “Neri” have different forms but similar atmospheres. Graziano’s reliance on minimalism and repetition, his ambient rituals, recall piano trios like e.s.t. and, more recently, GoGo Penguin. But Graziano is a stronger composer. He too writes deceptively simple melodies, but his linger in the mind. His repetitions always gradually enlarge into substantive content. And while his solos are organic to his compositions and create single unified entities, he does improvise, as on “Aleph 3.” In spare markings, he formulates a stark, pure, concentrated version of lyricism. Because of such moments, Graziano belongs on the second list above.

Originally Published