Stefano Battaglia - Pelagos (ECM Records)

From last year, an impressive world music inspired double LP by the Italian jazz doyen

Released Sep 15th, 2017 via ECM Records
Having trained as a classical pianist, Italian keyboard maestro Stefano Battaglia has increasingly devoted himself to improvisational work influenced not only by jazz but also world music and avant garde experimentation.

Having kicked off his ECM tenure with an expansive 2-CD solo effort – 2005's Raccolto – Battaglia honed his improvisational chops by teaming with bassist Salvatore Maiore and drummer Roberto Dani on a trio of excellent albums: The River of Anyder (2011), Songways (2012) and In the Morning (2015).

Pelagos sees Battaglia return to solo explorations that include prepared piano pieces that provide startling contrasts - Processional sounds like John Cage let loose on a gamelan, while Dogon breathlessly nods to African tribalism.

Dance rhythms weave through Migration Mantra and the hints of Gaelic jig in Unfratu. There are also two takes on a traditional Arab piece - Lamma Bada Yatathanna - the first given the air of a stately dance, the second a more traditional Middle Eastern cadence.

With over two hours of music, there are bound to be some longeurs but letting the album flow throws up some real high points too. At his best, Battaglia channels the breathtaking flowing melodics of Keith Jarrett with the angular dissonances of Erik Satie on standout tracks like Pelagos and Exilium.

There are nods to classical tropes throughout – the minimalist Lampedusa, the Scriabin-like tumble of notes on Hora Mundi, and the clever progressions combined with almost baroque tranquillity of the closing Brenner Toccata.