At the age of six, wanting to become a singer, Stefano Bollani would accompany himself on the family keyboard. A few years later, he recorded a cassette of himself singing and playing, which he sent to his idol Renato Carosone, along with a letter explaining his dream. Carosone replied advising him to listen to a lot of blues and jazz, and so Bollani did.
His first record was the second volume of the jazz encyclopaedia published by Fratelli Fabbri. At age 11, he enrolled at the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory of Florence, where he received his diploma in piano in 1993.
At age 15, he tread the boards professionally, playing mostly pop, at the same time studying under Luca Flores, Mauro Grossi, and Franco D’Andrea whose seminars he attended at Siena Jazz.
In 1996, he met Enrico Rava at the Teatro Metastasio in Prato who immediately invited him to play in Paris with him: “You’re young, you don’t have a family. Take the risk, give up pop and devote yourself full-time to the music you love.” Taking Rava’s advice, Bollani backed out of Jovanotti’s tournée and flung himself into jazz, language of improvisation and freedom. His upswing was marked by rapid laps: from the important, and continuing collaboration with mentor Enrico Rava to his affirmation with a referendum held by Musica Jazz magazine (best new talent 1998); from directing his Orchestra del Titanic (with numerous concerts to its credit and two recordings for the Via Veneto label) to making records and performing tribute-shows to pop music of the past (Abbassa la tua radio with, among others, Peppe Servillo, Irene Grandi, Marco Parente, Elio from the Storie tese … and Guarda che luna! with Gianmaria Testa and Banda Osiris …), right up to winning the Premio Carosone, usually awarded to singers, in September 2003 in Naples.
They caught on to Stefano Bollani even in Japan. Swing Journal, the country’s most authoritative jazz publication, awarded him the New Star Award in 2003, the first time for a European musician. Besides his “historical” collaboration with Rava, he has played with countless others, including Richard Galliano, Gato Barbieri, Pat Metheny, Michel Portal, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Han Bennink, Paolo Fresu, and appeared on the world’s most prestigious stages (from Umbria Jazz to the Montreal Festival, from Town Hall in New York to the Scala in Milan). His music often frequents irony, an evident characteristic of all of his work, some of it quite bizarre and offbeat, like Gnosi delle fanfole, a recording in which, along with songwriter Massimo Altomare, he set to music the surreal poetry of Fosco Maraini (1998), and Cantata dei pastori immobili, a sort of musical oratory for four voices, narrator and piano, on texts by David Riondino, published in a slip-case by Donzelli (2004). He has done four recordings for the French, Label Bleu: Les fleurs bleues, 2002, a homage to writer Raymond Queneau, recorded with Americans Scott Colley on the bass and Clarence Penn on the drums, the solo recording Smat smat, 2003; Concertone, 2004, a composition for jazz trio and symphonic orchestra with the arrangements and direction of Paolo Silvestri and, finally, I Visionari, the first recording with his new quintet formed by Mirko Guerrini on the sax, Nico Gori on the clarinet, Ferruccio Spinetti on the double bass, and Cristiano Calcagnile on the drums. In 2003 he began playing with Danish musicians Jesper Bodilsen and Morten Lund, recording with them for Stunt Records, Mi ritorni in mente and, in 2005, Gleda, Songs from Scandinavia.
For the “Racconti di canzoni” series, he published L’america di Renato Carosone (Elleu, 2004), a tribute to the history of swing and jazz in Italy and, especially, to his idol Carosone. This past May, the Jazz series of the weekly magazine L’Espresso, released the first Italian CD of his trio with Ares Tavolazzi and Walter Paoli. The previous discs had been released only for the Japanese label Venus Records. For his ingenious and sparkling character, and his natural gifts as an entertainer, Stefano Bollani earned the cover of the weekly magazine Topolino (this past May), the only Italian jazz musician to measure himself against Fethry Duck!
September 2006 marked the contemporary release of Piano Solo, the first CD in his name for ECM, which immediately rose to the top of jazz sales charts and landed the 31st place in the Sorrisi&Canzoni chart, and his first novel, La sindrome di Brontolo, published by Baldini Castoldi, Dalai.
BOLLANI CARIOCA TOUR, MARCH 08: