In his second ECM album Italy’s Stefano Battaglia honours his countryman Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975), one of the great European filmmakers of the 20th century, as well as a distinguished poet, novelist, playwright, philosopher, journalist, painter – and political activist. Few artists of any nationality have taken on as much as the outspoken, controversial, intensively creative Pasolini. It was precisely the scope of Pasolini’s work and his tumultuous life that attracted and inspired pianist-composer-improviser Battaglia. “What made the challenge of ‘interpreting’ Pasolini musically irresistible for me was this feeling for his unitas multiplex, his extraordinary capacity to bring opposites into coexistence. Not only academic and popular culture, or the sacred and profane, but also political, ethical and religious issues. Pasolini was adept in many mediums, each of his arts influenced the other, intermeshing and blending together to communicate his message in the most varied ways. “
Two different line-ups under Battaglia’s direction are assigned to play music that variously makes reference to the atmospheres of Pasolini’s films and to the actors in them, to Pasolini’s ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ poetry and his provocative journalism, to his political and religious beliefs, and to specific scenes from his biography...The first CD of this double album features a group that also tours as the Pietra Lata Sestetto. Alongside Battaglia’s lyrical piano, the trumpet of Switzerland’s Michael Gassmann glides elegantly: Battaglia and Gassmann have played in projects together for 13 years already. The sound of the ensemble is also strongly coloured by the clarinet of Mirco Mariottini and the cello of Tokyo-born Aya Shimura. Melody is uppermost on the first half of “Re: Pasolini” where melancholy, nostalgia and tenderness are amongst the music’s emotional characteristics. Darker sounds predominate on the second CD where the improvisational quotient is raised, and the band includes Dominique Pifarély, Bruno Chevillon and Vincent Courtois – all known to ECM listeners for their work with Louis Sclavis – , as well as gifted drummer Michele Rabbia. Here, Battaglia looks at subjects including Pasolini’s troubled relationship to the church and his radical politics, and, on the bleak but moving “Ostia”, his violent death in 1975. Of the latter composition, Battaglia says, “My piece is intended as a Passion for Pasolini, a soundtrack for the violent and mysterious tragedy which occurred on that night of All Saints...”
Battaglias’s detailed liner notes give an account of the genesis of each of the pieces on “Re: Pasolini” and outline his programmatic intention. Taken together the 24 tracks on this double album add up to a remarkable portrait of a multi-faceted artist. (“Re: Pasolini” is also an important addition to the burgeoning number of film related projects on ECM which in recent history included Jean-Luc Godard soundtracks and a DVD of short films, Eleni Karaindrou’s music for Angelopoulos, Andrey Dergatchev’s soundtrack for Russian art movie “The Return”, François Couturier’s tribute to Tarkovsky and more.)
Born in Milan in 1965, Battaglia first attracted attention as a classical pianist, playing music from baroque and early music to 20th century composition (with a focus on Hindemith, Boulez, Messiaen and Ligeti) and successfully touring the European festivals in this capacity. He began playing jazz at 14, inspired by two ECM discs: Paul Bley’s “Open, To Love” and Keith Jarrett’s “Facing You”. “When I heard those records – both of which are still favourites – I recognised right away that classical music alone could no longer satisfy all my musical needs, and that it would not be my only channel for artistic communication.” By the end of the 1980s he was also winning awards as a jazz player. Subsequently he played with all of the major Italian improvisers and with international jazz musicians including Lee Konitz, Dewey Redman, Marc Johnson, Barre Phillips, Steve Swallow, Kenny Wheeler and many more. He has revealed a special affinity for drums and percussion, working in duos with, amongst others, Tony Oxley, Pierre Favre, Billy Elgart, Michele Rabbia and Roberto Dani.
In Italy he has recorded prodigiously, now with a discography of more than sixty recordings scattered around the small labels, his recordings for Splasc(h) in particular attracting international attention. “A formidable player...,” the Penguin Guide to Jazz enthused, “he has a gift for melodic shaping which is the bequest of a generation of Italian piano masters.” This gift has adapted itself to the most wide ranging formats, from solo performance to his 16-piece large ensemble Theatrum, and in contexts from free playing to new arrangements of Alec Wilder’s art songs to multi-discipline projects addressing poetry (from St John of the Cross to Rilke), painting and film: “It seems natural to me to try and connect the things that I love deeply.”
His debut ECM album was “Raccolto”, released in 2005 (Editor’s Choice in Jazz Review), and featuring Dominique Pifarély, Giovanni Maier and Michele Rabbia. .
Stefano Battaglia is playing the Pasolini-project, with Michael Gassmann, Mirco Mariottini, Aya Shimura, Salvatore Maiore and Roberto Dani at a number of festivals in 2007, including the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, in May. A special event will also take place in Siena, Italy, in June. A number of other dates is in preparation; more news soon at www.ecmrecords.com
Handsomely-packaged even by ECM standards, the album “Re:Pasolini” includes images from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films “The Gospel According to St Matthew” and “The Decameron”, as well as Pasolini’s poem “The Song of the Bells”, and liner notes by Stefano Battaglia.