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O Que Ser 
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  • Personnel: Hamilton de Holanda (bandolim); Stefano Bollani (piano).
  • Audio Mixers: Roberto Lioli; Jan Erik Kongshaug; Stefano Bollani.
  • Recording information: Jazz Middelheim, Antwerp (08/17/2012).
  • Photographer: Cees Van De Ven.
  • Recorded live just a year before its release, O Que Ser  pairs Italian postmodernist jazz pianist Stefano Bollani with one of Brazil's great musical innovators, Hamilton De Holanda playing bandolim (a ten-string mandolin). The pair met on-stage in 2009 and played just two numbers, but it was enough; they realized what was possible. They played a full show in 2011, and in August of 2012 they appeared together at the Jazz Middleheim Festival and made this recording. Despite the stark instrumentation, this program is lively and full of risky moves. Of the ten pieces here, seven are from the Brazilian canon. Each participant contributed one composition and there is a haunted, heartbreaking read of Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion." The classically trained De Holanda is well known in his own country, having recorded several albums both solo and orchestral. He has also collaborated with everyone from Mike Marshall and B‚la Fleck to Richard Galliano and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Bollani has, in recent years, become well known as a stylist, recording material by everyone from Prokofiev and Scott Joplin to the Beach Boys and Thelonious Monk. He has employed Brazilian music on numerous recordings, among them Orvieto with Chick Corea and on his own fine Stone in the Water. O Que Ser  commences with a limpid, graceful reading of Ed£ Lobo's "Beatriz." The duo demonstrate their intimate communication skills, moving through the melody with elegance and restraint yet chock-full of emotion. Next up is Bollani's fiery yet dryly humorous "Il Barbone Di Siviglia," which employs a brisk tempo that quotes the opera, but via the pulse of baiao and his high-register arpeggios, the improvisational quotient is high. The effect is knotty and slightly dissonant, yet deeply intuitive. This contrasts beautifully with De Holanda's "Caprichos de Espanha," which weds flamenco, bolero, Middle Eastern modal music, choro, and Western classical musics in a dazzling, labyrinthine journey. The tender reading of Jobim's "Luiza" engages bossa but shifts the focus toward jazz in order to reveal another musical possibility for this simple song. "Canto de Ossanha" is a burner that weds choro, samba, and syncopated modernist jazz in a fiery display of near symbiotic interaction with electrifying solos. O Que Ser  is a one of a kind dialogue between two musicians who understand that music is an adventure; they submit themselves to it fully with a wealth of ideas and bring out the heat, intimacy, and humor in these tunes. ~ Thom Jurek
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