“I can’t really define myself as either a composer or performer,” says pianist Stefano Battaglia. “I’m both because I’m deeply concentrated on all the aspects. I play solo piano programs, classical music, jazz … I have to work on the instrument every day. I like to compose and improvise and I spend all my life in music, so it’s difficult to choose between one or the other.”
For two decades, the Milan-based performer and composer dedicated his efforts to writing, interpreting, and playing various forms of chamber, concert, and jazz music. Battaglia made his official recording debut in 1987, on the Splasc(h) label, after graduating from the Conservatory of Milan. Heavily involved in both classical and jazz circuits in Italy and Europe, he performed at a number of festivals and collaborated with a wide range of musicians. He also taught jazz for a number of years at schools in Sienna.
Battaglia’s latest recordings involve a piano-led texture of strings, woodwinds, and percussion. A recent album, Raccolto, was his debut on the revered Munich label ECM. Not quite chamber music and not quite modern jazz, it worked in and around various melodies and slow-moving sound collages.
His brand-new collection, Re: Pasolini, is even more ambitious. A collection of original pieces inspired by the work of Italian filmmaker and poet Pier Paolo Pasolini, it’s a graceful, expressive, fluid assembly of sounds and tunes.
“On Raccolto, things were dedicated to the practice of improvisation, which is an important side of my many musical aspects,” Battaglia says. “This new disc, Re: Pasolini, is a big work on compositions — months and months of choices and troubles [laughs]. It’s a longer journey when you try to capture the music from another language, like film or visual art. My point of view with improvisation is not just free expression. I try to compose in real time with the same attention for form and shape. What I try to do when I’m improvising is to write a piece that doesn’t exist before, but with the same goals as compositions.”
Battaglia’s touring ensemble includes Michael Gassmann on trumpet, Mirco Mariottini on clarinet, Aya Shimura on cello, Salvatore Maiore on double-bass, and Roberto Dani on the drum kit — all of whom recorded the first half of Re: Pasolini (disc number two included violin, percussion, cello and double-bass).
“I’ll be in Charleston with the band of the first disc, which is a kind of a dialog between popular languages. I tried to show combinations of sounds and musicians. It’s a little more simple in form and it’s very difficult to have a concept with both bands. It’s hard for concentration for the musicians and the audience … it’s a tour de force.
“I decided to play the summer concerts with this band that’s playing in Charleston,” the pianist adds. “It is challenge to present such an ambitious program. We will play the music of the first CD with the sextet. I am very happy that the band is growing month after month. We’re very excited to play this music in the U.S.” —T. Ballard Lesemann
STEFANO BATTAGLIA • Spoleto Festival USA • $25-$40 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 27 at 9 p.m. • The Cistern, 66 George St. • 579-3100