2084 (2019, IRMA Records)
2084 is a concept album by The Piano Room aka the italian keyboardist and composer Francesco Gazzara. Partly inspired by the novel 2084: The End Of The World written in 2015 by algerian author Boualem Sansal, this four tracks work is also a tribute – especially on the electronic instrumentation – to Genesis former guitarist and founder Anthony Phillips’ album 1984, an innovative masterpiece in the prog rock and electronic scenes of the early 80’s. Is George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 still actual 70 years after its first appearance in print? Arguably yes. In the meantime, let’s fill our ears once more with those classic vintage electronics sounds (both analog and digital in this case) – Polymoog, Arp 2600, Arp Odyssey, Prophet 5, Korg MS20, Mellotron, Hammond B3 organ, Yamaha CP80 piano – and with that instantly recognizable Roland CR-78 drum machine (as used by Genesis in Duke and by Phil Collins in In The Air Tonight). The entire concept album divided in four different sections is composed, arranged and performed by Francesco Gazzara as if the electronic sounds palette would be an entire symphonic orchestra in his hands. There’s also a cinematographic reference – as Gazzara himself is a TV and cinema composer since the late ‘90’s – to the experimental electronic soundtracks written by John Carpenter for his own movies, especially in the opening track Prologue 2084. At last, being this a The Piano Room release, 2084 includes also three bonus tracks for solo acoustic piano, in tradition with the project’s earlier albums Early Morning and Breath, Feel.
Breath, Feel (2009, IRMA Records)
A few musical bars thrown in, less than a hundred seconds into the new album Breath Feel: here comes the magical spell of a pure contemporary progressive sound, courtesy of The Piano Room project. Minds and ears experience far off lands: a double bass driven jazz waltz morphs into some classical piano arpeggios – of Rick Wakeman / The Six Wives Of Henry The VIII‘s memory – while a rocking drum kit gets on fire beside the powerful and arcaic Mellotron. Mind you, there’s not any prog rock fetish here: chord progressions and rhythmic odd signatures always feed lyrical melodic lines in Breath Feel. That’s why, for instance, the stormy instrumental section of the album title track – pure ‘70’s symphonic rock played with The Who’s energy – is just a long interval between the song’s intro and outro sang by an operatic (soprano and tenor) duo. And that’s why, half way through Haendel With Care, an Ennio Morricone styled carillon anticipates the next jazz rock ordeal, reminiscent of early italian prog stars as Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso. As in the previous album Early Morning, the sound palette of Breath Feel alternates pastoral 12 string acoustic guitars with swinging grooves led by piano, double bass and drums: now early Genesis or King Crimson, other times pure Hollywood funk, as in Grusin, track dedicated to the great jazz scorer Dave Grusin. Well oiled and perfected on stage, The Piano Room is a trio founded by Francesco Gazzara (piano, mellotron, organ, moog, guitars) with Luca Fogagnolo (double bass) and Giuliano Ferrari (drums). Two great operatic singers are guesting in Breath Feel and Little Girl: english soprano Saffron Jones and italian tenor Gianluca Paganelli. File under: progressive, soundtrack, contemporary, jazz, rock, folk, classical. Sounds like: Rick Wakeman, Genesis, King Crimson, Roedelius, Jaga Jazzist, Michel Legrand, ELP, Anthony Phillips, Erik Satie, Claude Debussy.
Early Morning (2007, IRMA Records)
An acoustic piano playing simultaneously guitar tabs and orchestral transcriptions: not so usual. So is the double bass alternation between romantic bowing and swing pizzicato. And what about a rock drum kit suddenly becoming a symphonic percussion ensemble? When on stage or in the studio, The Piano Room is all this and much more. Composer and pianist Francesco Gazzara‘s new project – after 15 years of TV/film scoring and 4 albums with acid jazz combo Gazzara – joins prog rock’s mystical atmospheres with Canterbury‘s acoustic folk. The piano, double bass and drums trio – usually a jazz formula – was the perfect vehicule to give those precious musical genres a modern impact, rhythmically and sonically. In the first self titled album, The Piano Room (2006, Terre Sommerse), the acoustic piano was paired in each track by a different instrument (cello, soprano sax, flute, english horn). In this second album, Early Morning (2007, Irma Records), Francesco Gazzara shares duties with Luca Fogagnolo (double bass) and Giuliano Ferrari (drums, gongs, tambourine), both members of italian jazz combo Chat Noir. In this CD all the songs are arranged and orchestrated for the live trio, with a sensible increase in choral tension, pastoral echoes and epic melodies. It may sound a bit like Genesis (Watcher Of The Skies trio version is also in their live set) or Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, King Crimson, Rick Wakeman, Erik Satie, Claude Debussy. Or maybe The Piano Room is just a modern path on an ancient rug: a kind of imaginary journey that will take you through years of fruitful contacts between rock and classical music.
The Piano Room (2006, Terre Sommerse)
The Piano Room opens with Scattered By The Winds Of Change. A symbolic title inspired by a physical sensation: the North Sea winds crushing on the Essex and Suffolk coasts, in England. The tune slowly builds up images, from the cold winds at the beginning to an unexpected epic conclusion, which suggests entering a tiny gothic church, all wood and stone. A symbol of returning home, the domestic fire , after the ordeal and the strong “winds of change” of our life . Soprano saxophone (Milena Angele’) counterpoints piano and flute, flying high over the mellotron chorale in the epic finale. Next is neo classic The Garden Centre, with piano and classical guitar interplaying around an antique and baroque melody. Third in the tracklist is Watcher Of The Skies, a cover from the Genesis album Foxtrot. Francesco Gazzara transposes the original song’s mellotron intro to piano, cello and double bass, giving a minimalist and modern tone to this prog rock classic. The album follows on with My Vessel, where the melody is driven by an expressionist touch (Erik Satie) until the final part, definitely more romantic. An end that’s linked to the start of A World In Bloom, with an upbeat piano theme followed by guitar arpeggios, thumping double bass and dark mellotron strings. Next tune is Ices, with the return of the soprano saxophone and a new harmonic structure based on modal intervals. The Piano Room continues with Punch & Judy, guided by the english horn melody through to a hypnotic finale. The Age Of Chivalry, for piano and double bass, has an evocative character. On the odd rhythmic signature, the piano’s left hand and the double bass together echo the shots of an imaginary artillery. Empty House brings back the romantic atmosphere, with the bassoon theme reaching the climax of the composition. Last in The Piano Room, the only tune without piano, is Outside The Room, played by a 12 string together with a nylon guitar. (Notes compiled by reviewer Dave Kennedy).