The pure water of the Anyder River flowed through Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia”. Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia celebrates it here, in music uncontaminated by jazz trends: “I set myself the task of writing songs and dances uninfluenced by the sophistication of contemporary musical languages, striving to shape pieces that might have been played on archaic instruments a thousand years ago. I think of it as a kind of music before the idioms.” If the piano trio remains a modern institution and the improvisational group understanding shared by Battaglia, Maiore and Dani cannot help but be of-the-moment, the musicians have nonetheless made an album that feels “timeless”.
The compositions here are mostly named after mythical and legendary locations, each of them conferring specific atmospheres. Fictional and real-world place names are interspersed. From Minas Tirith, Tolkien’s White City, the players travel, via the Utopian river, to the sacred mountain of Ararat and onward to Bensalem, mythical island in Sir Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, somewhere to the West of Peru, where an enlightened citizenry labours to improve man’s understanding: “We have twelve that sail into foreign countries under the names of other nations (for our own we conceal), who bring us the books and abstracts, and patterns of experiments of all other parts.”
In his selection of literary and philosophical quotes for the CD booklet, Battaglia casts a net that similarly brings far-flung traditions into juxtaposition, referencing Rumi and Rimbaud, Hildegard von Bingen and Black Elk of the Oglala Sioux: these are just some of the names that fire the composer’s imagination. Yet it is not a musical patchwork that he has created from such influences but an original concept that seems to spring from a strong, organic centre. The trio has its own deep pulses and its own methodology. There is a robust lyricism at work as modal improvisations unfold.
Battaglia (born 1965 in Milan) first made waves as a classical pianist, playing music from baroque and early music to 20th century composition, touring the European festivals in this capacity, before making the transition to music that incorporated improvisation. A strong feeling for structure, a legacy from the ‘classical’ years, continues to inform all his work, however ostensibly free the context. He has been an ECM artist since 2003, when the double album “Raccolto” was recorded. Subsequent releases have included “Re: Pasolini” a tribute to the Italian filmmaker and polymath, which includes contributions from Salvatore Maiore and Roberto Dani, and “Pastorale”, an album of duets with Michele Rabbia.
Salvatore Maiore was born in Sassari in 1965, and studied double bass at the Cagliari conservatory. He has played with numerous Italian configurations and worked with visiting musicians including Lee Konitz, Billy Cobham, Joseph Jarman, Steve Grossman, Cedar Walton, Oliver Lake, and David Liebman. His discography includes recordings with Glauco Venier, Klaus Gesing, Al DiMeola and many others.
Roberto Dani was born in Vicenza, Italy in 1969 and began playing drums at the age of 7. He has specialized in small ensemble work, exploring the borders between improvised and written music. His own bands and projects have included Norma Winstone, Louis Sclavis, Michel Godard and others. He has also played with Annette Peacock, Ralph Alessi, Ben Monder, Mick Goodrick and many more. Current affiliations include, in addition to the Battaglia group, the trio of Giorgio Gaslini. He has played numerous solo concerts and also issued solo drum albums, recent releases include “Lontano”, for prepared drums, on the Stella Nera label.
“The River of Anyder” was recorded in November 2009 in the exceptional acoustic of Lugano’s Auditorio Radiotelevisione Svizzera, with Manfred Eicher producing.