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Of all the active Italian pianists (and there are many : from Danilo Rea to Enrico Pieranunzi, from Stefano Bollani to Dado Moroni, from Franco D’Andrea to Giovanni Guidi, from Antonello Salis to Nico Morelli, or from Giovanni Mirabassi to Stefano Battaglia…) Antonio Farao is arguably the one who most closely follows the tradition of modern American jazz piano, from McCoy Tyner to Chick Corea (whose “Matrix” he covers here).

With him, swinging exuberance and pyrotechnic virtuosity are second nature. Endowed with an impressive technical baggage which he uses if not in moderation at least to the point, this pianist is often more brilliant than profound, but this propensity to go to extremes always rings with disarming sincerity.

Farao is like that, and the harmonic and melodic generosity that characterizes him is never gratuitous. So, it’s hardly surprising that, for his first recording for the Criss Cross label, he has chosen accompanists of the calibre of John Patitucci and Jeff Ballard, who take us back to Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau and Wayne Shorter (to whom Farao dedicates one of his compositions). In such good company, the pianist has every opportunity to offer a warm discourse dominated by up-tempo themes – mostly from his pen – punctuated by a few more lyrical, soothing pieces (one of which is played solo and another is dedicated to Michel Petrucciani and Didier Lockwood) where his touch becomes more tender and his phrasing more meditative.

Patitucci and Ballard are of course – and as usual – irreproachable in their accompaniment, giving the music a remarkable density. It’s easy to get carried away by this torrent of music, with its abundantly rich flow. It’s just over an hour of music that the listener is invited to share with three musicians whose pleasure in playing is contagious.

Line up:

Antonio Farao: piano

John Patitucci: double bass

Jeff Ballard: drums

©Photo Header Marco Glaviano.

Tributes was released by Criss Cross Jazz label on June 14, 2024.

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