The Giovanni Guidi Trio, "City of Broken Dreams" (ECM 2013) is absolutely magnificent. It is definitely bound for my shortlist as one of my favorites for 2013.
I expect this will be Guidi's breakout CD for recognition here in the States, but one should know that he has a string of accomplished CDs dating back to his debut release,"Indian Summer" (CamJazz 2007), a stunning quartet set with Dan Kinzelman on sax and clarinet, Francesco Poticelli on bass, and Joao Lobo on drums. It was then that I began wathing the career of this 28 year old pianist.
Guidi is not one to stand pat with his music, and has demonstrated a willingness to experiment with his sound palette, composing for trio, quartet, and larger ensembles. "The House Beyond This One" (CamJazz 2008) was another rich quartet outing, while "Tomorrow Never Knows (Venus 2006) was a trio outing featuring 13 original miniatures. And then there was "The Unknown Rebel Band" (CamJazz 2009), a tentet, which has a whole different outlook with its larger sounds and textures, and bigger dynamics. Guidi's piano is less distinctive within the ensemble when compared to the rest, although the band is terrific and the melodies are full of dynamic playing. He returned to a smaller format for "We Don't Live Here Anymore" (CamJazz 2011), a quintet featuring trombonist Gianluca Petrella and sax player Michael Blake. Guidi also figured prominently on "Rava on the Dance Floor" (ECM 2013) and "Tribe" (ECM 2011), the latter also with Enrico Rava; and has played on several recordings by Petrella and Fabrizio Sferra, both outstanding players in Italy on trombone and drums respectively
On this latest release Lobo returns on drums, but the bass player is Thomas Morgan, who has had a string of outstanding recordings with Craig Taborn (Chants"), Tomasz Stanko ("Wislawa"), Dan Tepfer ("Five Pedals Deep") and others. From the outset, with the lovely title song "City of Broken Dreams", the stage is set for what is a first rate, lyrical and moving piano trio album. Guidi is strong throughout the set, and Morgan demonstrates his own strength many times as he is given a lot of space to work with by composer Guidi. Morgan stands out for example on the second piece "Leonie" with a stronly plucked and deep tone, but also with his own reflective play as he explores the melody set by Guidi.
The narrative throughout has this same deeply moving and lyrical sensibility. All thre players stand out. Morgan develops shining improvisations around Guidi's melodies and provides point/counter-point responses to Guidi's piano at other times. On "Just One More Time" Guidi's pianism sparkles with his light and rapid touch and cascading notes, while Morgan again has a masterful solo. Lobo is a great percussionist who has clearly learned from Motian and others how to provide interesting coloration while quietly moving the music along as needed with a light touch on his cymbals and drum foot.
It's hard to single out any one song for praise as all are deserving. The pensive "Forbidden Zone" reflects the more serious side of Guidi's composing; it's a slowly played song full of rich deep tones from the piano and bass with minimal but effective support from Lobo. This same quiet strength is later revisited with the lovely and thoughtful "The Way People Live." And in a change of mood, "No Other Possibility" is a more modern and somewhat more jagged tune that offers a nice change of pace right in the middle of the set.
Finally, in the end the set is bookended by a variation on the title song, privoviding another chance to hear the absolutely riveting pianism of Guidi as the song builds into a very moving expression of this composer and pianist's great abilities.
Fantastic music that shouldn't be overlooked. Guidi is a young pianist on the rise. Catch the wave.