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September 6, 2012 5:27 pm
After a European tour, the Italian pianist Kekko Fornarelli brought his blend of contemporary mood jazz to London, playing from his 2011 album, Room of Mirrors. With him were Luca Alemanno on double bass and Dario Congedo on drums, a line-up that allows for close interplay between musicians and space around each instrument: a near-perfect balance of tension and freedom.
Fornarelli’s music has a pared-down yet catchy style that draws on his classical roots, with influences from pop to trip-hop to gospel. The title number started with a beefy chord sequence with harmonies straight out of Chopin – lots of major tenths and a touch of Aretha Franklin – played in a proper, two-handed style that generated a stirring emotion. Over Congedo’s groove, Alemanno’s bass was wonderfully free and funky. His later solo was beautifully contrasting, Bach-like with echoes of Kind of Blue.
“Flavour of Clouds” began like a familiar old song, Fornarelli’s delicate right hand letting the melody shine through. He has a knack of conjuring a mood, a place, a story. “I write films in my mind,” he declared; and it’s true that each song could be a movie score. Most of them build to an anthemic climax, and in this instance Congedo let rip, soloing at a rock-stadium level that rather overwhelmed the carefully layered resonances.
The band kicked into gear in the second set, more relaxed and tighter. “Daily Jungle” was a pulsating soundscape, a hip-hop drum riff interweaving with chromatic piano chords, threads of melody and a grooving bass line. Throughout, Alemanno was visually arresting, at times closing his eyes and clasping his bass to him like a lover, then swinging his hips joyfully as he plucked out a riff.
In the soulful ballad, “Living to Come Back”, Fornarelli tried to resist the obvious key changes but occasionally his choices were odd; here, it would be better to go with the flow rather than impose the neoclassical. More successful was “Coffee and Cigarettes”, where his authentic bluesy piano intro led into an upbeat West Coast swing.
Based on his own life experience, Fornarelli’s music is self-reflective but never self-indulgent. Credit, too, to the band’s well-rehearsed, disciplined performance, in which their finely crafted – not over-long – solos always related to the tunes. British players, take note.
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