Roberto Pistolesi: Open Lands And Moving People

Prog-rock inspired Dutch group mixes the sounds of King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd and a jazzed-up Sandy Denny


Roberto Pistolesi made sure that his debut album as a leader wasn’t going to be a rush job. The Italian drummer combines original compositions with a pool of varied guests and a concept that is inspired by personal journeys and musical encounters. The explanation of Pistolesi, active expat in The Netherlands and sought-after freelancer with among others Steve Grossman and Stefano di Battista, reads as follows: “Even the most modern and busy city is built on a piece of land, and at some point it opens up to a field, a forest or to open water.”

Built on hooks and odd meter, myriad rhythmic and mood shifts within songs even, the prog-rock jazz of Open Lands And Moving People plays hard to get. But eventually the dividend pays off. The symphonic Orchestral Unfavourites manages to link rebellious piano contraptions, courtesy of Roberto Tarenzi, with a buttery, soft pop-funk coda. A jittery melody and snappy breakbeat are the building blocks of Serious Moves Towards An Argument. Daniel Juárez’s husky and swirling tenor lines stoke up the fire, suggesting that the head of at least one bickering partner has turned beet-red and is ready to explode.

In a realm that assimilates the feeling of such classic bands as King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, the angular style of guitarist Teis Semey is highly appropriate, brimming with brick chords and wickedly bouncing licks. Sanne Huijbergts chimes in with flawless melody lines and flexible scatting, gift-wrapped in satin tones like a sort of jazzed-up Sandy Denny.

The strong album climax of The Craziest Things might be interpreted as an extension of the craziest things that jazz musicians have done since the word go, more than a hundred years ago: mixing improvisation and personal styles with outside sources. As the 2020’s fly by, more than a few contemporary crossovers seem rather shallow and politically correct. (The recent combination of a rapper and a prime Dutch jazz orchestra has got to be a low point.) Pistolesi’s effort is the exact opposite and an organic and successful attempt at blending chops and passion.

High Res Skies; Critical Battery, Please Charge (Ambrosean); And The Infinite Sadness; Latina; Orchestral Unfavourites; Serious Moves Towards An Argument; Slow March; The Big Wave; C-Ornette Alla Crema; The Craziest Things (65.52)
Roberto Tarenzi (p); Daniel Juárez (ts); Teis Semey (g); Sanne Huijbergts (v & vib 1, 3, 4 & 9); Zack Lober (b); Pasha Shcherbakov (tb, 5); Roberto Pistolesi (d); Woerdense Verlaat, 23, 24 & 25 April 2021.
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