Italian jazz pianist Giovanni Guidi stuns with atypical styles

Visiting Italian jazz pianist, Giovanni Guidi, sent highly improvised sonic waves through Cape Town’s jazz centers recently, leaving in his path networks, some confusion among listeners, but deep respect for choosing stellar musicians to accompany his journey.

G Guidi-courtesy Clement Puig of ECM

Youngblood Cultural Center in central Cape Town came alive again as Guidi  soloed through his first set, and settled listeners into his style. His is more than a sonic journey; he transports, through a matrix of emotional jolts, intellectual explorations, reality checks, and rhythmic changes, to land back on terra firma of the familiar kind. 

This 35-year old has achieved enormous successes, having performed and mentored with some of the great jazz musicians of Europe, notably with Italian trumpet aficionado, Enrico Rava, to name a few. Guidi’s style is hard to describe – he leaves chordal harmonies aside to evoke emotions of disturbance, then resolve. With body swaying over the keys, Guidi connects his sonic messages from lower register rumblings to treble crescendos, crashing into a more subtle tone of a familiar tune which leads the way. His take on such standards as ‘My Funny Valentine’, or ‘Over the Rainbow’, morph out of a cloud of delusion into gentler refrains, thus bringing some relief to the ears. Like silence after a heavy tropical downpour.

In the second set, fellow musicians admirably plucked to Guidi’s free style intros to familiar tunes. Each artist had freedoms to solo and explore: Dutch bassist and Cape Town resident, Hein van der Geyn, could occasionally lead and add percussive beats; Rus Nerwich’s tenor sax could squeak and squeal; Lee Thompson’s trumpet had permission to run away; and drummer Jonno Sweetman whispered and enunciated multiple rhythms, depending on the band’s mood. The piano was not always easy to listen to, but the complementarity of other instruments brought sense back to purpose.

Likewise, an unusual duo concert with legendary Brotherhood of Breath drummer, Louis Moholo-Moholo, now approaching age 80, brought respecting listeners to Langa’s Guga S’Thebe cultural center. Understandably, Guidi had been influenced in his early years by this South African band-in-exile and the improvised styles of pianist Chris McGregor during their 1970s-80s hay days. But the aging Moholo struggled to keep up with the zesty Guidi piano this time, with sounds merging more into a monotonous clackety-clack routine. Still, Guidi’s piano held its own with familiar standards fading in and out of chordal outbursts.

It seems this young, talented pianist wants to explore more….with South African artists…. and find out what makes the South African sound so special. While his Italian Cultural tour was brief this trip, Guidi hopes to spend longer time on South Africa’s soil in the near future and possibly record with his favourite artists, many identified so far

Guidi’s latest recording, Avec Le Temps, exemplifies where he is taking his music with his jazzahead! 2019 quintet:   

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