Alessandro Sgobbio: Piano Music 2

Second solo volume from the Italian pianist mixes grand piano with electronics in nine meditative dedications to places and people

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Returning to Stefano Amerio’s Artesuono Studio and the same Fazioli F278 Grand heard on last year’s Piano Music, Italian pianist Alessandro Sgobbio (Pericopes, Hitra) clearly has unfinished business. While that first volume was very much a post-lockdown project, a set of dedications that amongst other things attempted to make sense of the global pandemic and the killing of George Floyd, the music was as poetic as it was imaginative and continues to bear repeated listening.

Piano Music 2 follows a broadly similar path, traversing the lines between jazz, classical and improvised musics. But this time around Sgobbio’s use of electronics opens up a host of new soundscaping possibilities, Amerio’s rich studio acoustics accented by cavernous reverb, warm analogue drones and gossamer shadow accents.

Opening with Keys And Returns, a dedication to the Palestine-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who died on the West Bank in 2022, Sgobbio immediately makes his methods clear. Dark chords provide suitably heavy counterpoint to the lighter string-like electronic drones, and as the melodic line establishes its grip an increasingly disruptive storm of electrical interference cannot disguise its beauty.

Modular Circles is the longest piece of the set, one of several inspired by natural and spiritual elements. In this icy electro-acoustic sound world, tension is built and released as Sgobbio’s darting Jarrett-like runs fizz across the surface. Three meditative miniatures, Tula, Îlot Chalon and Einhausung have something of a neo-classical feel, pointing to Sgobbio’s long-held interests in composition and form.

Perhaps the most heartfelt pieces are the two dedications to Sgobbio’s late mentor Misha Alperin, both named after the small Norwegian town of Asker where he lived. As Sgobbio’s sorrowful arpeggios are echoed by just the faintest electronic delay, it’s almost as if he’s locked in intimate dialogue with a voice from the other side.

Discography
Keys And Returns; Modular Circles; The River; Fundament De La Tana; Tula; Asker (Light); Asker (Trees); Einhausung (34.08)
Sgobbio (p, elec). Artesuono Studios, Udine, Italy, January 2021 and September 2022.
AMP Music & Records AT 0150