In Italy pianist-composer Stefano Bollani is what you might consider a superstar, and has recently been called a Gesamtkunstwerk by German radio BR-Klassik. Besides his intense and versatile concert activity, he has co-created popular radio series, anchored TV shows with internationally acclaimed musicians, written various books and co-produced and taken part in theatre plays. In 2016 he was granted the title “Commendatore”, Order of Merit of the Italian Republic; in 2019 he was conferred honorary citizenship by the city of Naples. Not only is Milano-born Stefano Bollani Italy’s most popular and beloved jazz artist, he has also been hailed by critics and large audience crowds all over the world. Among his many awards is the European Jazz Prize as Musician of the Year for 2007.
Bollani considers music a huge game to be re-invented and is constantly in search for stimulations, everywhere, in all the music of the past, and even more so by exploring the present, improvising in the moment, as he has done both on stage and in the studio: either solo (his legendary impromptu jukebox-like medley performances are second to none) or with great artists like Richard Galliano, Chick Corea, Caetano Veloso, Egberto Gismonti, Chucho Valdés, Hector Zazou, and his mentor Enrico Rava.
In the same spirit Bollani has made his way inside symphony orchestras such as the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, the Scala in Milan, the Orchestre National de Paris, the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Santa Cecilia orchestra in Rome, taken by the hand by enthusiastic directors such as Riccardo Chailly, Daniel Harding, Antonio Pappano and Zubin Mehta. Not only as soloist but also as composer: his “Concerto Azzurro” for piano and orchestra, structured in a prologue and three distinct movements of strong melodic and rhythmic character, was commissioned and Germany-premiered by Kristjan Järvi’s MDR Radio Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig in 2017, and perfectly reflects Bollani’s playful approach to classical music making: creatively disobeying the rules that demand that a pianist performing with an orchestra shall stick to the rigorously immutable score – achieved by a considerable amount of Bollani’s piano improvising. In 2019 his much jazz-influenced work in four movements “Concerto Verde” for piano and chamber orchestra followed, world-premièred the same year by Exequiel Mantega’s Sin Fin Orquestra and acclaimed with enormous enthusiasm.
In over 30 years of multifaceted music making, Bollani has recorded over 40 albums as leader and featured on several dozens of recordings as sideman for labels such as Label Bleu (“Les Fleurs Bleues”, …), Decca/Universal (“Gershwin” and “Sounds of the 30s” with Gewandhausorchester/Riccardo Chailly, “Napoli Trip”, …) and, most importantly, for ECM Records.
Bollani first recorded for ECM in 2003 with a series of albums with Enrico Rava: “Easy Living”, “Tati”, “The Third Man” (duo) and “New York Days”. His ECM debut under his own name was “Piano Solo” (2007). “Stone in the Water” with his ‘Danish Trio’ (Jesper Bodilsen and Morten Lund) followed. ECM catalogue jewels are also his effervescent live recordings in duo with Chick Corea (“Orvieto”) and bandolim master Hamilton de Holanda (“O que será”). His latest ECM album is “Joy In Spite Of Everything” with Bodilsen, Lund, Mark Turner and Bill Frisell (2014).
In 2017 Stefano Bollani founded his own label ALOBAR. In 2018 he released “Que Bom” (with star guests Caetano Veloso, João Bosco, Jaques Morelenbaum and Hamilton de Holanda), his first album on ALOBAR (AL1001), mainly consisting of Bollani’s own original tunes and distinctive melodies informed by Brazilian music culture. 3rd April 2020 is the release date of his solo album “Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar” (AL1007), which is his very own (ingenious) version of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s chef d’oeuvre.
Rhapsody In Blue (Gershwin) / Concerto Verde & Azzuro (Bollani)
“[Bollani] treats most of the solo part [of Rhapsody in Blue] with unexpected respect, and even un-swung rhythms. But he occasionally loosens up the text with exaggerated rubato and octave shifts…[His] clear, crisp pianism is heard to more convincing effect…in a fine, absolutely straight account of the Concerto in F. And Riccardo Chailly brings off an assured and lively performance of Gershwin’s own, little-heard suite from Porgy and Bess, Catfish Row.” BBC Magazine
“The performance of the Concerto is the finest I have ever heard…while all parties are alive to the smallest detail, there is an irreverence and spontaneity which capture the spirit of the work like no other…Rhapsody in Blue opens the disc. It’s a cracking account that inhabits the same world as the Concerto…Here again, Bollani’s exuberance and panache are infectious.” Gramophone Magazine
In nature, blooming is a moment of transformation, of expansion upwards, the period in which a new life cycle begins and comes out into the open. It brings a thousand new colours, scents, and shapes, shamelessly revealing itself for what it is: a blessing, like music.
After the success achieved with the TV program “Via Dei Matti n.0,” Stefano Bollani returns with the idea of this moment and, together with the director and actress Valentina Cenni, presents Blooming, a new solo piano album.
“These songs flourished in the garden of my piano, I watered them, nourished them and if necessary pruned them and now they are gathered here in a bouquet that is this record,” says Bollani. “They are very different flowers from each other, but born from the same environment and in the same period.”
The album features fifteen tracks, intimate and passionate, in which the Maestro indulges and offers an incredible journey between the keys of the piano with all the wisdom and enthusiasm for which he is known throughout the world.
Stefano Bollani’s music knows no boundaries, it mixes musical genres ranging from jazz to South American sounds and is nourished by all the grandeur and magical moments that the pianist has
experienced on stages worldwide. Every bloom is a blessing, like his music.
The idea is supported by Valentina Cenni’s beautiful graphic project, which celebrates the spectacle of nature by documenting an audience watching flowers bloom as if they were fireworks. The drawings areby Laura D’Amico.
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