“Room of Mirrors” is the latest offering from passionate and powerful pianist Kekko Fornarelli. Kekko is already a leader in the European and international jazz scenes, and this fine album will only add to his legacy. Fornarelli plays in today’s contemporary jazz style which is a full two-handed approach that draws equally form neo-classical, gospel and contemporary pop roots. Many can trace the development of this style back to the 70s and Keith Jarret’s influential “Kolin Concerts”, but an under-rated influence on today’s piano sound is also the grand pop artist Elton John who also combined the full two-handed styles of gospel and classical into a new powerful piano sound. Other contributors to the modern sound in piano include gospel influenced jazz artists like Gene Harris and Ramsey Lewis, as well as those who have a classical influence such as Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck. Fornarelli may have his influences and roots, but his approach and sound on the piano is entirely his own. He is apt to use a certain amount of open space in his playing which gives his solos a very lyrical horn like approach. Careful restraint is another hallmark of his approach, there is always a feeling that he has plenty more to unleash if the music calls for it.
Like a lot of today’s jazz, the music on here is a bit eclectic and hard to classify, but you can hear traces of post bop, rock, trip-hop, nu jazz and subtle electronic sounds in Fornarelli’s mix. Excellent drummer Gianlivio Liberti provides the beats which range from jazzy hip-hop to drumnbass and nu jazz/rock hybrids, Luca Bulcarelli adds the acoustic bass foundation and occasional background electronic colors and Fornarelli’s lyrical piano work rides on top. One stand out cut is “Daily Jungle”, which provides a solid rock/drumnbass hybrid beat with very nice mysterious electronic background pads. Although Fornarelli often has that somewhat formal sound associated with European contemporary jazz, on “Coffee and Cigarettes” he plays funky hard bop over Liberti’s hip-hop shuffle. Other tunes use repeating chord build ups that recall the early days of classic 70s progressive rock, while many other cuts are almost ambient with soft piano suspended over quiet drop tempo beats.
Overall this is a very melodic and accessible album that is not given to excess. Not only will fans of contemporary jazz find a lot to like here, but this probably has cross appeal to fans of interesting instrumental music in general.