Splasc(h) CDH 744.2

Probably with the best intentions in the world, trumpeter Paolo Fresu makes a major point in his booklet notes to boast that pianist Silvia Corda is the first woman to establish herself on the Sardinian jazz scene.

It’s surprising that such a well-travelled Italian musician of a little more than 40, doesn’t realize the extent of the condescension and reverse sexism in that statement. For the focus of the first CD from someone hailing from what he characterizes as an island otherwise known for “sheep, occasional kidnapping and immaculate beaches” and a jazz festival he directs, should be that person’s playing. Luckily Corda is a proficient pianist who will probably do well in a mainstream setting, no matter her gender.

That proficiency is also the main weakness of this session, though. Unlike some Italian stylists like Gianluigi Trovesi or Pino Minafra, two take two Italian (male) examples or Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer, on the distaff side, while her technique is impressive, she doesn’t seem to have developed enough of her own personality yet. Classically trained and very much in thrall to Bill Evans — whose “Re: Person I Knew” she reprises here — her playing isn’t that much different from a flock of other young pianists on both sides of the Atlantic. As a matter of fact, if you’d hear someone like Trovesi, for instance, as characterizing Italian jazz, she’s still very much an American-style player, and there are already plenty of them around.

Perhaps it would have been better if she hadn’t recorded an Evans tune, not to mention one by Erik Satie, who sort of holds the same position in 20th century chamber music as Evans holds in jazz. If you don’t delve deeply into the performance it veers perilously towards background music.

In truth, she fares better with the Evans tune than the Satie, but more impressive are her own compositions and especially those of bassist Adriano Orrù. The compositions also move her, him and drummer Antonio Pisano farther out of the axis perfected by the Evans-Scott LaFaro-Paul Motian trio of 40 years ago.

The bassist’s “Anche i neosituazionisti hanno un cuore”, the longest tune on the disc, allows her to bear down solidly on the keyboard after he performs a memorable arco intro. His strong bow work comes into play again on his “Dettagli” where she responds with some ominous offbeat runs and quick tempo changes. Unfortunately her own tunes sound more like generic modern neo-con jazz — at least as she plays them. While “Dune”, for instance finds her more two-handed than the elsewhere and using different voicings, it’s merely as if the influence of Keith Jarrett has replaced Evans’ style. Other tracks like “Impronte” or the sprightly “Corale” sound cozily familiar, but without leaving any significant afterimage in the organ of Corti when they finish.

Corda’s saving grace however is, at the risk of being ageist, that she’s still young, and has only been playing jazz since 1993, again according to Fresu. Perhaps if she gets a chance to perform elsewhere than her island and in the company of different, probing musicians her jazz palate will expand.

This CD is fine if you like well-played non-specific music. But the future will show whether Corda’s work will become both original and noteworthy.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Preludio 2. Ritratto 3. Roli-Zoli 4. Airs à faire fuir 5. Airs 6. Anche i neosituazionisti hanno un cuore 7. Dune 8. Re: Person I Knew 9. Dettagli 10. Impronte 11. Corale

Personnel: Silvia Corda (piano); Adriano Orrù (bass); Antonio Pisano (drums)