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Alboran Trio

Near Gale


by Ian Mann

May 14, 2008


An outstanding album from one of the best piano trios around.

“Near Gale” is the second album release from this acclaimed Italian piano trio coming hot on the heels of 2006’s highly successful “Meltemi”. Formed in 2004 the trio comprises pianist Paolo Paliaga, bassist Dino Contenti and drummer Gigi Biolcati. Paliaga is the group’s main composer contributing ten of the new album’s eleven tunes. The closing “Seguendo Il Filo ” comes from the pen of Biolcati.

“Near Gale” is a nautical term and the album draws it’s title from Paliaga’s love of sailing. The group name also derives from this source, Alboran being the Arab name for the Straits of Gibraltar. However the pianist is at pains to point out that although he is the main writer the trio is a highly democratic unit and the high level of group interaction on this recording certainly bears this out. Each member makes a distinctive contribution to the collective group sound.

The Alboran Trio have a strong sense of identity and imbue Paliaga’s melodic compositions with a warmth that reflects the group’s Mediterranean roots. There is more to the writing than just pretty tunes however. The trio employ a remarkably wide sonic palette for a piano trio with Contenti making effective use of the bow, Biolcati exploring the whole range of his kit and Paliaga occasionally dampening the strings as on the attention grabbing “Autumn Mist”. However they resist the temptation to experiment with E.S.T. style electronica.

Paliaga’s writing varies from lyrical Jarrett style balladry to bursts of spikier, more confrontational playing. The excellent use of dynamics is a feature of this record and the trio never lose their sense of melody. In a well-structured programme they consistently engage the listener’s attention.

All three musicians are consummate technicians and moments of individual brilliance are laced throughout the album. However there is no grandstanding, everything is an integral part of the overall group sound.

Contenti is an excellent soloist whose lyrical, singing pizzicato tone contrasts well with his rich, dark arco playing.

Biolcati’s attention to detail and his ability to constantly summon up unexpected sounds and textures is a constant delight. He is no slouch as a writer either as the gorgeously lyrical “Seguendo Il Filo” shows.

However picking out individual tracks is somewhat invidious as the standard throughout the album is so uniformly high. Paliaga is an outstanding composer with an enquiring musical mind who likes to play with melodic, rhythmic and harmonic ideas. All are here in abundance on this outstanding album, which is highly recommended to all, but especially to aficionados of the piano trio. The Alboran trio are right up there with the best of them.

The trio is rapidly establishing an international reputation and played to great acclaim in the U.K. in 2007 at the Brecon and London Jazz Festivals. It is to be hoped that they will return to these shores in the not too distant future.

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