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Stefano Battaglia Trio: In the Morning: Music of Alec Wilder

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Alec Wilder (1907-1980) was a composer equally at home in the worlds of stage, film, opera/classical and popular song. Because he spread himself out to such a degree, he is not often celebrated to the extent of many of his contemporaries who focused exclusively on contributing to what is now known as the Great American Songbook. Still, his work has been interpreted by artists as diverse as Dave Liebman (who devoted an entire album to Wilder), Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye and, especially, Frank Sinatra, who called Wilder a close friend and a favorite composer.

On the live In the Morning, the Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia, along with his trio of Salvatore Maiore on bass and Roberto Dani playing drums, takes on seven of Wilder’s pieces, with four of the interpretations exceeding 10 minutes. That Battaglia and company take their time to examine the music so comprehensively is a testament to Wilder’s melodic gift; his work gives a musician plenty of wiggle room. The title track leads things off, casual and almost cautious until a third of the way in, when Battaglia puts the theme aside and heads to a darker, foreboding place. If the tone of the music strikes some listeners as cinematic in its suggestiveness and subtlety, that’s a nod to the composer’s ability to create large-scale aural portraiture while maintaining an understated presence. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is so vaporous as to seem fleeting; Dani’s reliance on cymbals and Battaglia’s minimalism on the keyboard create what must have been an eerie pall throughout Torino’s Teatro Vittoria.

Not all is quite so sedate. Both “River Run” and “Where Do You Go?” are spirited romps, and the closing “Chick Lorimer,” although it takes several minutes to get there, ends the set with a rush of sound that approaches rock spirit in its unbound fury.

Originally Published