May 13 2015
“A one of a kind dialogue between two musicians who understand that music is an adventure…” Allmusic review, 2013
Italian piano virtuoso Stefano Bollani and Brazil’s bandolim expert Hamilton de Holanda represent a fresh new pairing in the world of jazz fusion that combines the musical cultures of South America and the Mediterranean. It seems that nothing can stop this duo in recreating the fiery, passionate and most intimate melodies of Latin music that has scored success in their most recent album together, O que será.
Following hot on the heels of that success the Melbourne International Jazz Festival presents these two artists as part of its Modern Masters series on Saturday 6 June at 7:30pm at Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. This concert offers jazz lovers a unique experience to hear selections from their album, including original pieces by both artists, tango master Piazzolla, Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque, and other Brazilian music legends. To top it off, both will appear in conversation after the show with music commentator Gerry Koster.
So how did these two exponents of contemporary jazz begin their musical journeys?
Both artists came from different musical upbringings. Bollani began tinkering on those ivory keys since the age of six that was to eventually lead him to the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory of Florence. Since then he has performed with all the major orchestras in Europe and abroad. His grounded classical training allows him to move seamlessly from Prokofiev to the Beach Boys, Scott Joplin to Piazzolla, pop to latin grooves and has made him in high demand since the 90s.
On the other hand, de Holanda began playing the mandolin at age five in his native Brazil. Before long he appeared on TV shows and live gigs as well as studying violin at the Brasilia School of Music. He is now one of the leading specialists of the bandolim, the 10-string mandolin, and has collaborated with international stars Mike Marshall, Richard Galliano, Béla Fleck, and many others.
The bandolim is unique to the plucked string family. “I wanted to create a polyphony in my instrument and be able to play the melody, the accompaniment and the rhythm, all at the same time,” de Holanda says.
Indeed striking the right note, de Holanda’s improvisational prowess breaks new ground that is reflected in numerous critically-acclaimed albums and has led him to his premier release on the ECM label with Bollani.
Bollani is no stranger either to Brazilian music. Having previously released an entire album of music by Antônio Carlos Jobim, as well as choro and samba numbers throughout his career, his credentials are intrinsically suited to this music.
Nor is his career limited to music performance. This versatile artist also heads a comic radio show, Il Dottor Djembè, on Italy’s Radio Rai 3 as well as a music TV show, Sostiene Bollani.
This unique collaboration began in 2009 when they first performed together at a festival in Bolzano. An immediate empathy and infectious energy took hold of these masterful improvisers when they were captured live at the Jazz Mannheim Festival in Antwerp in 2012, on which O que será is based.
“As I've traveled around the world in the past 10 years, I became friends with a few musicians and I recorded with a few of them,” de Holanda says. “I thought it would be an opportunity for the music of Pixinguinha to be played by jazz musicians who know about improvisation, and who know how to interpret music that's not theirs.”
And so we have O que será, literally “Whatever will be.”
As the album title suggests, what will be in store for Melbourne audiences?
At once tender, spontaneous, devilishly thrilling, it pushes the boundaries of contemporary jazz. The interplay between these artists is contagious allowing audiences to take part in the unexpected turns and emotional outpourings from the stage.
“Like watching two hyperkinetic kids in a musical candy store, looking to sample everything they can get their hands on,” as Kelman puts it from All About Jazz.
Their musical chemistry is obvious and they bounce off each other as fleetingly as their nimble rhythms which will surely delight audiences at this year’s festival.
And who knows what plans are in store for the future. These artists are constantly pushing boundaries and challenging the musical world into new territories, new genres, and mesmerising soundscapes.
To book tickets visit the Stefano Bollani & Hamilton de Holanda event page and follow the links.