May 26 2011 Chester Chronicle
Listen and be amazed as Italian jazz pianist Stefano Bollani opens this year’s Chester Summer Music Festival.
Making a rare appearance in the UK, Stefano’s combination of virtuosity, originality of ideas and eclectic style comes together in Chester Town Hall Assembly Rooms on Friday, July 1.
“Stefano Bollani is one of the most exciting, inventive and ingenious jazz pianists playing today,” says Andrew Cornall, the artistic director of the Chester Summer Music Festival. “I am extremely delighted that he has agreed to come to Chester – no-one who comes to this concert will fail to be moved or amazed by this consummate musician.”
Bollani is almost unique in being a classically trained pianist capable of astoundingly freewheeling jazz invention.
Enrolling at Florence's prestigious Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini at the age of 11, he began his professional career at 15 as a keyboard player for various Italian pop stars.
He might well have continued as a highly accomplished, if frustrated, musician for hire had it not been for a meeting with trumpeter Enrico Rava, frequently cited as Italy's greatest living jazz player.
Rava introduced Bollani to the idea that music should be a conversation, shifting according to the voices of the people playing it.
Bollani has carved out a career as a liberated virtuoso ever since, working with orchestras one moment and recording an album of bossa nova classics the next.
“Enrico completely changed my approach to being a bandleader,” says Bollani.
“Before, I would write down all the arrangements for the band and then we would improvise. Enrico wasn't doing that.
“His teaching was that if you want to work with a great musician, you should let them do exactly what they want to do.
“In 15 years of playing music together he never once told me what to do. Normally you worry about what the bandleader wants from you. Enrico is inspirational because he only wants you to be yourself.”
Bollani is a big star in Italy, popular not only for his virtuosity but also for his easy manner, filling sets with off-the-cuff jokes and drifting from complex motifs and avant-garde sections into the melodies of Italian standards with languid ease.
“If you read a great writer like Italo Calvino, he doesn't tell you how long he had to study, how many drafts he had to write, how clever his book's structure is,” said Bollani.
“We work very hard at complex arrangements, but if they don't sound natural, we have failed. A lot of musicians throw all the knowledge they have at you, and you think, 'They studied very hard. But I don't care’.
“You can study all your life and be a horrible musician. We have to go beyond training, beyond structure.”
Besides his collaboration with Rava, he has played with countless others, including Richard Galliano, Gato Barbieri, Pat Metheny, Michel Portal, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Han Bennink, Paolo Fresu, and appeared on the world’s most prestigious stages.
September 2006 marked the contemporary release of Piano Solo, the first CD in his name for ECM, which immediately rose to the top of jazz sales charts and landed the 31st place in the SorrisieCanzoni chart.
Stefano Bollani kicks off the festival on Friday, July 1 at Chester Town Hall.
The Chester Summer Music festival runs for two weeks from July 1-16 and features 12 evening concerts, seven lunchtime concerts, and one Big Sing! weekend.
For all the festival concerts and ticket information, visit www.chesterfestivals.co.uk, where you will be able to view the whole programme and book tickets or call 0845 2417868.