Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Rossano Sportiello: a set to remember

Brooklyn Girl and I have seen many sets by many pianists, but none more memorable than this 24-minute medley by Rossano Sportiello. He surprised us with this one. We knew he was conservatory-trained, but until then we'd only heard him play jazz. I thought back to the first time we'd met him, newly arrived in the U.S. and with very little English at his command. Knowing his classical background, I brought up Beethoven's syncopated, jazz-like variation in the second movement of the Opus 111 sonata; but Rossano said, in his bright, cheerful way, "I only play jazz." Now, a few years later, and with obvious emotion, he was dedicating this set to the memory of drummer Eddie Locke, who encouraged him to return to his classical roots.

Eddie Locke

Happily, ArborsJazz has posted it all on YouTube so we can relive it. Rossano starts playing stride midway through part 2, and it's spectacular. I was sitting next to a jazz pianist from the midwest. At one point late in part 2, Rossano tossed off a particularly apt phrase with such swing and precision that I gasped audibly, and the pianist next to me said, "That's it, I give up!"

Part 1:

Part 2:

For readers who don't have 24 minutes to spare, here's 2:13 of straight-ahead jazz: After You've Gone with Rossano and Steve Blailock at Ascona. BG and I weren't there, but I like this one because you can see the joy of music-making in Rossano's face.

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