I reviewed a CD by the Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia a few years back, _Atem_ (on Splasc(h)). It was a superb quintet disc, mostly free improvisations but with two rapt, minimalist-influenced (in the sense of "tonality and lots of arpeggios" and "sort of like Bryars") compositions bookending the album. It was like an ECM album in many ways, a thoughtful round-robin approach to improvisation... but a little more exciting and abrasive than most recent ECM albums. So I wasn't surprised to find that ECM had signed him up. In a gesture of confidence, or at least of determination to grab the attention of new listeners, they've given Battaglia a two-CD showcase for his debut. Disc one is an "ECM piano trio" date, though with the Italians Giovanni Maier and Michele Rabbia for the rhythm section it gets away from the famed Nordic cool. Battaglia in the press release remarks on how he likes to think of the piano as a source of textures, in a percussive or orchestral way, and that's very much evident here, though there's a little Paul Bleyish linespinning too. Sometimes the way that Battaglia latches onto a particular pattern or texture of notes gets a little showoffy or simply too static, but in general it works well.
Disc two replaces the bassist with violinist Dominique Pifarely, who was also on _Atem_, & this is much more abrasive stuff--it's all freely improvised, & you're likely to think of classical composers from Bartok to Messiaen to Mompou (there's even an impromptu homage to Berio at one point). I liked this disc a little more than the 1st disc, though it's definitely a disc that will throw listeners looking for an easy ride. Bear with it: it's eminently approachable, & Pifarely's wonderful throughout (& there's no Grappelliish sweetness to his playing: it's often quite buzzy and raw for all its elegance).