“Raccolto” marks the ECM debut of Stefano Battaglia. An important addition to the label’s expanding roster of Italian artists, Battaglia has made his mark as player of great capacity, heard in many contexts since the 1980s. This double album features two separate trios: the group with bassist Giovanni Maier and Michele Rabbia, which has toured as ‘Triosonic’; and the trio known as ‘Atem’, with Rabbia and French violinist Dominique Pifarély. Both groups were formed in 2001, both have roots going back much further, and each has an entirely different character. ‘Raccolto’ means ‘harvest’ and Battaglia’s recording suggests a cornucopia of inspirations: the two trios overflow with ideas. Battaglia/Maier/Rabbia offers music of a reverent lyricism, which nonetheless has its roots quite clearly in a jazz piano trio tradition, that goes back at least to Paul Bley’s ‘Footloose’. The trio with Pifarély, on the other hand, focuses on collective playing, timbral exploration, and free dissolved rhythms – all part of the language of free music, but as Battaglia points out, he and the French violinist share an interest in “creating form through improvisation, which is uncommon amongst the free players. We’re trying to make music that is very close to composition, but there are also emanations from the languages of folk music.” Drummer Rabbia plays jazz drum kit in the trio with Maier, and a percussion set “with more of the sonorities of contemporary classical music” in the trio with Pifarély, further emphasizing the distinction between CDs 1 & 2. Together they give a powerful indication of the scope of Stefano Battaglia’s musical convictions. “I find it symbolically important, “Battaglia says, “that my first ECM album is an improvisations album, free and rigorous at the same time.”
Born in Milan in 1965, Battaglia first attracted attention as a classical pianist, playing music from baroque and early music to 20th century composition (with a focus on Hindemith, Boulez, Messiaen and Ligeti) and successfully touring the European festivals in this capacity. He began playing jazz at 14, inspired by two ECM discs: Bley’s “Open, To Love” and Keith Jarrett’s “Facing You”. “When I heard those records – both of which are still favourites – I recognised right away that classical music alone could no longer satisfy all my musical needs, and that it would not be my only channel for artistic communication.” By the end of the 1980s he was also winning awards as a jazz player. Subsequently he played with all of the major Italian improvisers and with international jazz musicians including Lee Konitz, Dewey Redman, Marc Johnson, Barre Phillips, Steve Swallow, Kenny Wheeler and many more. He has revealed a special affinity for drums and percussion, working in duos with, amongst others, Tony Oxley, Pierre Favre, Billy Elgart, Michele Rabbia and Roberto Dani. “Sometimes as a piano player you can forget the primitive genetic origins of the instrument, but working with percussion I can explore the piano in many ways – not only melodically, harmonically, orchestrally, but also discovering new sounds, thinking of the keyboard in a different way, as a canvas, almost. It’s chance to feel free from models and traditions.”
In Italy he has recorded prodigiously, now with a discography of more than sixty recordings scattered around the small labels, his recordings for Splasc(h) in particular attracting international attention. “A formidable player...,” the Penguin Guide to Jazz enthused, “he has a gift for melodic shaping which is the bequest of a generation of Italian piano masters.” This gift has adapted itself to the most wide ranging formats, from solo performance to his 16-piece large ensemble Theatrum, and in contexts from free playing to new arrangements of Alec Wilder’s art songs to multi-discipline projects addressing poetry (from St John of the Cross to Rilke), painting and film: “It seems natural to me to try and connect the things that I love deeply.” He recently recorded a ‘celebration of Pier Paolo Pasolini’ which will form the basis of a forthcoming ECM project.
Violinist Dominique Pifarély (born in Bègles, France in 1957) is well-known to ECM listeners through his recordings with Louis Sclavis (“Acoustic Quartet”, “Les Violences de Rameau”, “Dans la nuit”), and with François Couturier (“Poros”). A major force in French jazz since 1978 when he joined Didier Levallet’s group, he has also played with Mike Westbrook, Joachim Kühn, the Vienna Art Orchestra, Martial Solal and many others, always an exciting and original player. Pifarély and Battaglia have worked together on projects since 1993.
Born in Turin in 1965, Michele Rabbia studied with renowned drummers Joe Hunt and Alan Daswson at Boston’s Berklee School. Very active in Italian jazz performance throughout the 1990s, he has played with Enrico Rava, Paolo Fresu, Antonello Sallis, Gianni Coscia and more.
One of the most in-demand bassists on the Italian scene Giovanni Maier (born 1965), has also played across the entire range of jazz and improvisation with musicians from Tony Scott to Cecil Taylor, from Richard Galliano to Han Bennink, and from Yves Robert to Butch Morris. He plays regularly with Enrico Rava’s Electric Five, with Tiziano Tononi and Daniele Cavallanti’s band Nexus and with the Umberto Petrin Trio, and occasionally with the Italian Instabile Orchestra.
“Raccolto” is being launched with a special concert at the Teatro Deri Rozzi in Siena, Italy, on November 5, in the context of an international symposium on European improvisation, followed by a CD presentation in Milan on November 9 in which Battaglia and Enrico Rava (whose new album “Tati” is also an Autumn 2005 release) will discuss their respective musics.