Album Review: Fabrizio La Piana – Almond and Coffee

Fabrizio La Piana

Almond and Coffee is a debut album by Amsterdam-based guitarist Fabrizio La Piana, who is joined on this adventure by drummer Niels Voskuil and bassist Bernhard Hollinger.

Solo albums can be really a complicated effort as when separated from the surrounding musicians (who can act either as a comfort or as restraint), the musician can have a total freedom to compose or improvise. The ending results can vary and can range from well-crafted statements to absolute nonsense and self-indulgence. And on this recording, La Piana has produced something different in terms of sensibility. What emerges is an investigation of selfhood and across these seven tracks, there is an attempt for La Piana to balance and synthesize the elements of his own musical identity. Almond and Coffee is an intimate and hushed affair, much in the manner of Pat Metheny‘s own One Quiet Night. But even though these two records share many traits and moods still this feels more like intimate aural love letters to close ones.

Almond and Coffee is an exceptionally sensitive and beautiful recording and on this record, the trio exudes a quiet introspection even when the musicians are playing reels which are usually dynamic, playful, boastful and intricate. The prevailing mood on these tracks is of serenity and evocation. These songs are intricate but never showy.

Almond and Coffee

La Piana’s improvisational prowess comes to the fore but always in the service of the music and he reaches a new and different level in his ability to blur the line between form and freedom. “Almond and Coffee” is a gem of a song; it feels almost as a sad and mournful melodic piece that radiates with melancholy. La Piana‘s approach here turns the piece into a highly textured and cinematic tune that moves across various soundscapes that could only be created on a guitar. The way he has structured the melodies and accompanying chords it sounds like a series of sonic moods that progress in waves. But what he does in his improvisations is striking. His own playing, with its fluent phrasing has risen to a such a level that he is virtually in a league of his own.

On all of these songs, there is an occasional rhythmic intro, a percussion on the body of the guitar and an overdubbed second guitar to achieve his atmospheric layers of harmony. As a result, La Piana’s guitar sounds like a gorgeous thing, a resonating font of profundity. Yet the melodic warmth is always embraced regardless of pace and dynamics. What is unique about La Piana is his ability to make music that can both communicate and provoke emotional responses while retaining his complex guitar lines.

Almond and Coffee is a recording of exquisite sensitivity and nuance. It is deep yet vibrant, detailed yet inviting. All throughout Fabrizio La Piana humbly proves that his playing is steered by technique, but it’s powered by emotion.

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