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Stefano Battaglia: Raccolto

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A strong case can be made that, south of Norway and Sweden, the best European jazz is coming out of Italy. Enrico Pieranunzi, Enrico Rava, Gianluca Petrella and 16-year-old prodigy Francesco Cafiso are just four evidentiary examples. Pianist Stefano Battaglia must now be added to the list.

It is remarkable how ECM keeps finding artists with distinctive voices who, once found, become natural extensions of the overarching ECM aesthetic. Raccolto is a double album featuring Battaglia’s two working trios. The first CD has Giovanni Maier on bass and Michele Rabbia on drums. Only the instrumentation is conventional. The title track builds from tentative chord overlays to ascending delicate spirals to towering architecture. “Triangolazioni” finds some of the most remarkable moments in recent recorded jazz. Furious arco bass and whining cymbals lead Battaglia to spray clusters of notes at the piano’s treble extreme, shards of light that reach the end of the keyboard and somehow keep climbing. Some pieces, like “Triosonic 1,” are barely populated moodscapes (arco bass sighs, percussive rustlings, stark piano gestures). Battaglia is a rare artist who plays with fearless freedom and meaningful precision.

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