Esbjörn Svensson, the Swedish original who consistently turned crossovers between jazz, pop and classical music into lasting art with EST, would have got around to this orchestral venture himself but for his accidental death in 2008. With its shapely themes, subtle pacing and big climaxes, his popular trio’s music was ideal material, eloquently confirmed here by arranger Hans Ek, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and four star jazz soloists, including brilliant Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala and Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset.
Jazz pianist Stefano Bollani was born in Milan, Italy, on December 5, 1972. He began playing piano as a child in order to accompany his singing, but soon concentrated solely on the instrument, enrolling in a conservatory in Florence when he was 11. There, he studied both jazz and pop music, and after graduating in 1993, added his keyboard skills to albums for many of Italy's top pop stars, including Laura Pausini, Irene Grandi, and Jovanotti. When working with the latter in 1996 he met avant-garde jazz trumpeter Enrico Rava, who invited the young pianist to play with him in Paris, an opportunity Bollani quickly accepted.
Swiss pianist Thierry Lang combines jazz, folk and classical influences on this, his recording debut for ACT. This is defiantly Swiss music but as the album’s liner notes explain label boss Siegfried Loch envisages this often beautiful music reaching out to a wider constituency. The word “Lyoba” is a dialect word for “cow herder’s chant” and comes from the Fribourg region in the West of Switzerland, the area from which Lang hails. The pianist had released two previous “Lyoba” albums locally before being discovered by Loch but the ACT deal has given him the opportunity to present his ideas to an international audience.
Brilliant's breezy survey of Rossini's one-act operas is assembled from five different recordings originally released on the Claves label in the early '90s. All were well received in their original form, and since all five were conducted by the veteran Marcello Viotti in similar-enough-for-non-audiophile acoustics, they make a convincing box set, and an attractive buy for those looking for a lighthearted Rossini infusion. The packaging is minimal, and the included libretti are in Italian only, so if you're counting on a translation you'll have to find it somewhere else. Viotti's work is exemplary and idiomatic throughout, always putting Rossini's most tuneful and lighthearted foot forward, while never forgetting that every good comedy has real moments of pathos. The overtures all seem a bit under tempo, and could use an extra shot of fun, but they are still upbeat enough to elicit a smile. The casts are uniformly excellent, mostly populated with journeyman Rossinians with fresh, if not always head turning, voices and good character. But each opera has at least one higher profile name, whose charisma adds just enough spice to the mix to elevate the entire collection above the competition: Ramón Vargas, Maria Bayo, and the accomplished buffo Bruno Pratico are exceptionally good.(Allen Schrott)