My title is brought to life as a rare truth every time the young man from Milan sits down at the piano, but there are two special reasons for it being even more evident. And you can take them home with you, play them in the car . . . . the possibilities are nearly endless.
Rossano has recorded two more CDs for the Japanese East Wind label that continue his explorations into the classical piano repertoire reinvented in a variety of jazz guises. The first was CHOPIN IN JAZZ; the new issues — with bassist Joel Forbes and Chuck Riggs — are LISZT IN JAZZ and SCHUBERT IN JAZZ.
For the classically-minded out there, the Liszt disc offers Sonetto 123 del Petrarca; Rhapsodie Hungaroise No. 2; Consolation No. 3 in D-Flat Major, Lento Placido; Sonetto 47 del Petrarca; Il Pensieroso; Etude de Concert No. 3, Un Sospiro; Sonetto 104 del Petrarca; La Campanella; Liebestraum No.3; Funeraillesm Oct. 1849; Vallee d’Obermann; Sonata en si Mineur.
And the Schubert recital is composed of Sonata for Apreggione and Piano, D.821, 1st Movement; Erste Walzer, D.365, Op. 9; Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano, D.821, 2nd Movement; Moment Musicaux, D.780, Op. 94, No.3; An de Musik, D.547, Op. 88, No. 4; Piano Quintet (“The Trout”), D.667, Op.114, 4th Movement; Heidenroselein, D.257, Op.3, No. 3; Standchen from Schwanesgang, D.957, No. 4; Wiegenlied, D.498, Op. 98; Der Lindenbaum from Winterreise, D.911, Op. 89; 4 Impromptus, Op. 142, No. 3; Ave Maria, D.839, Op. 52,No.6.
If you haven’t figured it out, Rossano is not only classically trained but someone who has kept up his skills.
A word about “classics in jazz” for the skeptical. I know there is a long tradition of this — conspicuous examples are the John Kirby Sextet and Don Lambert. Sometimes, alas, it was simply a matter of playing the famous theme from The Classics faster and louder and syncopating like mad. Many of those experiments worked well but others sunk under their own self-created monotony. None of this for Maestro Sportiello, although both CDs have passages of some of the best-played stride piano you could want — music to make Dick Hyman, Ralph Sutton, and James P. Johnson grin and relax.
Rossano Sportiello is such a superb pianist that whatever he turns his fingers to emerges as delightful creative music. His tone, his touch are beyond compare. And he is possessed of wonderful lightness that makes some of his contemporaries — who are fine players in their own regard — seem heavy by comparison. His swing is peerless, and his harmonic imagination seems boundless, as one might hope for from a young man who studied the work of Barry Harris as well as the great dead masters. But there is more to be heard in Rossano’s playing than simply beautiful pianism. He displays that rare quality of taste — and a deep regard for both the music and the audience who will hear it. So these CDs seem infinitely varied, never dull: each track is its own surprising musical playlet, whether Rossano is conjuring up the whole Basie band or recalling Johnny Guarneri swinging his way down the street — or playing the original theme with love, care, and reverence. In all this he is aided mightily by two of the best rhythm players I know — Joel Forbes and Chuck Riggs.
The best way to obtain copies of these discs is in itself a pleasure: to encounter the gracious Maestro at one of his gigs and press money into his hand. New York City residents have ample opportunity to do this, and I am pleased to remind my California friends that Rossano, Nicki Parrott, Hal Smith, and Stephanie Trick will be presenting two concerts at the end of July — details here. Not to be missed!
And lest things get too serious: here is my favorite new picture of Rossano, one I took at the Sacramento Music Festival just weeks ago.
May your happiness increase.