What does it sound like?:
Stefano Bollani is a dazzling Italian jazz pianist whose lengthy CV includes work with Chick Chorea, Bill Frisell, Pat Methany, a fifteen year collaboration with trumpeter Enrico Rava and multiple performances with several classical orchestras. He is adventurous in any setting: solo, duo, trio, small band, big band or full orchestra. And a chameleon able to adapt to any musical style: stride, be-bop, fusion, free, classical. He seems to be capable of almost anything and to possess an unlimited range.
He fell in love with Jesus Christ Superstar at the impressionable age of fourteen. The music we obsess over in our teens stays with us. I can understand how Bollani was drawn to the musical. As an Italian, he would have been indoctrinated with Catholicism. At fourteen, he was at a stage in life when many start to pose some questions. The notion of Jesus as a rock star appeals to rebellious youth. Plus, the sympathetic depiction of Judas and Mary Magdalene may well have piqued his curiosity, let alone the wonderful melodies and powerful guitar riffs.
This album is an adaptation of the score for solo piano. The only vocal is on the title track. Without the chorus and the rock band backing, Bollani’s piano occupies the emotional core at the heart of the tunes. Its intimacy draws on the key strength of Lloyd-Webber and Rice’s masterpiece, the humanity of the personal relationships between the key characters. Bollani keeps the overarching narrative flowing at pace, slowing down beautifully for some quiet reflection at The Last Supper and in Gethsemane, while displaying deft touches alongside swaggering power in Jesus Must Die and Damned For All Time. It’s not without playfulness, invention and even humour. Who would have imagined Fats Waller as King Herod? However, throughout, he maintains respectful of the original material.
Overall, there is a feel of spontaneity, of a superb musician drawing far into his heart and soul, to play tunes that have become a part of his very being. It’s a wonderful labour of love, a perfect expression of Bollani’s art and a deeply moving experience for the listener.
What does it all *mean*?
At an opportune time, Bollani reminds how important music is to us all, how it stays with us, sustains us, brings us joy, and helps us make sense of the world and the people we are.
Goes well with…
Headphones bring you closer.
Might suit people who like…
Solo Jazz piano. If you have any affection for Jesus Christ Superstar, please give this a listen. However, it doesn’t really matter what kind of music you like. Anyone who enjoys the sound of a man at one with his instrument and completely immersed in his music will love this.