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Miniatures : Music For Piano And Percussion

ECM 478 0266






1. Ritual

2. Tiziano's Painting

3. Asian Songs And Rhythms No. 40

4. Byzantine Icon

5. Serenity

6. Abstractio

7. Prayer

8. Gunam

9. Madiba

10. The Temple - War - Litanies

11. Krunk

12. Ave Gloriosa

13. Visible Spirit

14. Deep And Far

15. Ce jour de l'an

Glauco Venier - Piano, gongs, bells, metals

The Italian pianist Glauco Venier, now in his 50s, has led groups since as long ago as 1990. He may, however, be best known for working and recording as part of a trio with vocalist Norma Winstone and soprano sax and bass clarinetist Klaus Gesing over more recent years. Their album Distances, released in 2007, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album Category. This, though, is Venier's first solo album and could be regarded as a curiosity in some respects. The occasion which prompted the disc was the music that Venier created for a documentary film on the sculptor Giorgio Celiberti. As well as piano, there was also playing on metal sculptures designed to have sound qualities, otherwise known as 'sonorous sculptures'. On this recording, further sculptures by Harry Bertoja have been added to those of Celiberti and to the gongs and bells that might more conventionally be included among percussion instruments.

The album is entitled Miniatures, no doubt reflecting the brevity of many of the pieces here. Indeed, the whole disc is only 55 minutes long. There are several outstanding tracks. Asian Songs And Rhythms No.40, composed by George Gurdjieff, the Russian mystic and his collaborator Thomas de Hartmann, is a beautiful melody exquisitely rendered. Byzantine Icon is played with tenderness and finesse and features delicate work on the metal sculptures. Serenity lives up to its title, conveying a sense of limpid calmness and beatitude. There is plenty of good music elsewhere, too. Prayer is a further track of charm and sensitivity and the modern singer/songwriter Alessandra Franco's Gunam proves to be a piece of refreshing subtlety.The anonymous composition from the thirteenth century, Ave Gloriosa, builds, after a slow beginning, in Jarrett-like fashion and has its own quiet appeal. I liked, too, the accessible, pleasant treatment of a melody from the pen of the Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay, Ce jour de l'an. In Tiziano's Painting, the gentlest of introductions heralds a dialogue between piano and sound sculptures, to moving effect.

For the rest, I confess to being less enthusiastic. The Temple - War - Litanies, for instance, is suggestive more of abstract contemporary classical music than jazz. Venier is undoubtedly a fine pianist and composer. Ten of the tracks feature his own compositions. A number of his titles suggest a religious sensibility and his music conveys, for the most part, a deep sense of peace and harmony. I did find myself wondering how far the sonorous sculptures enhanced the percussion element on the disc. For me, they were at times a constructive presence but on occasions less so. Don't let that discourage you from making your own judgement. Venier has more than enough qualities to satisfy the discerning listener.

James Poore

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