Kekko Fornarelli Trio
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Kekko Fornarelli Trio

Bari, Apulia, Italy

Bari, Apulia, Italy
Band Jazz Jazz


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The best kept secret in music



Album · 2011 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
“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. - Jazz Music Archives

"Kekko Fornarelli, Room of Mirrors"

2011 | Label: Jazz Engine / BFM DIGITAL
The late Esbjorn Svensson transformed the piano trio with his use of electronic effects and a penchant for dynamic melodies that strayed far out to the fringes of jazz. Unsurprisingly, he inspired a new wave of pianists. With Room of Mirrors, Kekko Fornarelli has positioned himself as the torch bearer of the New Piano Trio. Kekko’s talent as pianist and composer is evidenced in his fearless use of dramatic tension and the wisdom to never let it devolve into silliness. On double bass, Luca Bulgarelli sticks to the shadows, revealing his presence with an uplifting lyricism. Gianlivio Liberti’s percussion is an elegant touch that softens the edges. The electronics ebb and flow, never gimmicky, never intrusive. A smart recording with an emotional presence. Evocative and addictive.

- E music, Dave Sumner

"Kekko Fornarelli: Room Of Mirrors (2011)"

Musical labels are as much a blessing as they are a curse, their
primary function serving as a musical guide to more effectively
market and sell a particular artist. Keeping in mind that taste is as
subjective as the continued debate as to the accuracy of certain subgenres,
enter Kekko Fornarelli.
Fornarelli is an Italian pianist whose compositions transcend style and
genre, instead embracing a dynamic tension of musical thought and
lyrical emotion. Post-modern contemporary fusion is, at best, a feeble
attempt to try and place this musical square peg in the proverbial round whole. To place Fornarelli in the
catchall category referred to as European jazz would be far too easy, unlike Fornarelli's music. Room of
Mirrors opens with a dynamic tension of passionate and thoughtful (if not slightly blues-infused) harmonic
progressions that are emotionally captivating while moving forward with a sense of musical purpose.
Fornarelli's trio demonstrates a unique cohesion, while playing just slightly on the edge of the more
traditional western form and functionality of improvised music.
"Coffee And Cigarettes" swings playfully, the understated finesse of drummer Gianlivio Liberti pushing
Fornarelli and bassist Luca Bulgarelli to again reach the state of one harmonious sonic train of thought.
Bulgarelli's lyricism is showcased on "Dreams and Compromise," where the bassist exhibits an infectious
sense of swing while still maintaining the ensemble approach. Fornarelli's Fender Rhodes and
synthesizers, along with Bulgarelli's use of electronics, are virtually transparent, never distracting from
this release's evocative approach throughout. Liberti and Bulgarelli add incredible richness of texture and
inventive tonality without ever bordering on self-indulgence.
An open and highly spatial consciousness is prevalent in Fornarelli's compositions, demonstrating a keen
sense of melody that places this innovative if not uniquely original musician well outside the European
jazz theater and more comfortably into the artistic world of lyrical self expression that so many strive for
but never achieve. Three-dimensional harmonics on a highly accessible level make this a stunning
Track Listing: Room of Mirrors; Dailey Jungle; The Flavour Of Clouds; Dreams and Compromise;
Children's Eyes; Coffee and Cigarettes; Time Goes On; Night Lights.
Personnel: Kekko Fornarelli: piano, fender rhodes, synthesizer; Luca Bulgarelli: double bass, electronics;
Gianlivio Liberti: drums, percussion.
Record Label: Auand | Style: Modern Jazz - All about Jazz

"CD review: Kekko Fornarelli"

This album was released in Italy last year but the pianist – born in Bari in 1978 – is in London on Monday and the album has been getting some healthy exposure on Jazz FM for the past couple of weeks.

And deserved exposure it certainly is. Of course the links to EST are obvious, even down to those faint metallic synth echoes to the piano chords, and the hip-hop drumming we have become familiar with via Robert Glasper and others is in there too.

With Fornarelli on piano, Fender Rhodes and synth, are Luca Bulgarelli on double bass and Gianlivio Liberti on drums.

Room Of Mirrors is filled with hooky melodies and compulsive grooves that makes this album very easy on the ear, and likely to make cooking breakfast or taking a quick drive down the motorway an even more pleasurable experience – if that’s how you get your pleasure, of course. It has that kind of energy, worn lightly, and with a lot of space in the arrangements to give the music momentum.

The title track is an easy crowd pleaser, and Daily Jungle follows it with even more urgency. In contrast The Flavour Of Clouds (nice title!) shows that the band is just as comfortable in ballad mood. While the moods change subtly through the other five tracks, the general character of the band remains coherent and focussed. This is clearly a man who knows where he is going musically.

Kekko Fornarelli brings a different bassist and drummer to the Pizza Express in Soho, London, on Monday 3 September, but I’m sure he will be playing this music. - The Jazz Breakfast

"CD Review - Kekko Fornarelli Trio: Kube Room of Mirrors."

Kekko Fornarelli (pno. Rhodes. Sunth); Luca Bulgarelli (bs); Gianlivio Liberti (dms). Inspired by the late Swedish pianist, Esbjorn Svensson, Kube Room of Mirrors is Italian pianist Fornarelli's attempt, and I quote, to draw jazz out of the narrow circuit of its appreciators, bringing it to the general audience. Whether he will achieve this in today's pop cultured musical climate is debatable. However, what is beyond discussion is the man's talent both as a pianist and composer. I'm not normally susceptible to a program of undiluted originals but this is as compelling a piano trio disc as I've heard for many a long 32 bars. The moods are absolutely enthralling ranging from, exploratory probing - seeking out exactly the right harmonic progression before building up for the big finish - to straight ahead contemporary jazz and the many nuances in between. These include Debussy-like passages that are integral to the flow rather than thrown in for mere effect and a measured use of Synthesizer. Above all, this is a trio with all of the component parts the highest level. Bass and drums are outstanding giving Fornarelli the stimulus and impetus for his improvisations whilst creating their own texture and colour to the musical canvas. If you were/are into EST or Brad Mehldau this CD should appeal. Check out this sample. Lance. Kekko Fornarelli performs on May 16 at the Italian Cultural Institute in London (39 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8NX). It would be nice to hear him in other parts of the UK. ----- Kekko Fornarelli - Kube Room of Mirrors (Auand Records, LC 24354)
- Lance Liddle, Bebop Spoken here

"Room of Mirrors Kekko Fornarelli’s Kube W"

“A sturdy slice of post E.S.T. piano jazz with an emphasis on accessible grooves and the blending of acoustic and electronic elements” Kekko Fornarelli’s Kube “Room Of Mirrors” (Auand Records AU3002)

This 2011 album is the latest release by the Italian pianist and composer Kekko Fornarelli (born Bari, 1978) and features his Kube trio consisting of Luca Bulgarelli (double bass) and Gianlivio Liberti (drums).
Fornarelli grew up with classical music and began learning the piano at the age of three. He later studied at the Conservatorio Piccinni in his home city and only turned to jazz at the age of eighteen. He has subsequently emerged as a leading figure on the Italian jazz scene playing with a host of Italian and international jazz musicians among them saxophonist Rosario Giuliani, trumpeter Flavio Boltro and bassists Michel Benita and Yuri Golubev.
“Room Of Mirrors”, his third album, consists of eight Fornarelli compositions and also features the pianist on Fender Rhodes and synthesiser. The writing owes much to the ideas of the late Esbjorn Svensson, a readily acknowledged influence, and Fornarelli has spoken of his desire to introduce his jazz based music to a wider demographic, as Svensson and E.S.T. did so successfully until Svensson’s tragic death in 2008.
“Room Of Mirrors” is thus a sturdy slice of post E.S.T. piano jazz with an emphasis on accessible grooves and the blending of acoustic and electronic instruments. Harmonically the music ranges from the very simple to the highly complex and Fornarelli’s classical training is expressed in elements of neo classical romanticism. As the accompanying press release suggests Fornarelli takes Northern European ideas and
gives them a southern Italian accent. It could be argued that Kube’s music is derivative but it is also accessible, melodic, very contemporary and highly enjoyable with a series of irresistible hooks and grooves.
Fornarelli’s liner notes give some insight into the inspirations behind the compositions. The title track, which opens the album, is a reflection on the concept of finding oneself alone in a room of mirrors and the sense of self doubt and alienation that such a thing could induce in the occupant. The music mirrors this precept building from an opening of sparse piano chords through E.S.T. like melodies and grooves with just a soupçon of eerie electronica. Fornarelli’s improvising becomes more complex as the composition develops but the piece never loses its sense of melody and the whole is underpinned by a kind of yearning romanticism.
Fornarelli’s writing is based on his experiences of contemporary life and his compositions often have a highly visual aspect. This is nowhere better illustrated than on the pulsing, urgent “Daily Jungle” his interpretation of the pressures of living in today’s frenetic, sound bite society. Again the sound of E.S.T. is the most obvious reference point with the insistent bass and drum grooves fuelling Fornarelli’s often feverish improvising. Again a judicious thread of electronica laces the composition. Fornarelli deploys his electronic components tastefully and judiciously, they add atmosphere and texture but are never allowed to dominate. As with his role models E.S.T. one is never left in doubt that this is essentially a piano trio recording, albeit a very contemporary one.
“The Flavour of Clouds” slows things down and is unashamedly romantic and often achingly beautiful. The sense of space, minimalistic accompaniment and an underlying gospel feel perhaps position this closer to Tord Gustavsen than E.S.T.
“Dreams And Compromise” showcases the abilities of bassist Luca Bulgarelli who impresses with the dexterity,lyricism and resonance of his solo. Elsewhere Liberti’s colourful drumming support Fornarelli’s increasingly expansive piano soloing. The overall scope of the piece is impressive as it builds organically via an E.S.T. style theme and chord progressions.
As the title suggests “Children’s Eyes” is another fine example of Fornarelli’s more lyrical and romantic tendencies with a simple, child like melody the basis for his musings on childhood innocence. However the piece subtly evolves into something more epic with the anthemic theme underscored by subtle electronica.
“Coffee & Cigaretees” celebrates life’s simple pleasures, sitting at a café in the town square sharing coffee and cigarettes with friends. Fornarelli draws his two colleagues into the circle and both enjoy brief solo features on this breezy, gently grooving paean to friendship.
In a well balanced programme “Time Goes On” represents another quiet and reflective interlude with Fornarelli’s airy touch at the keyboard delicately embellished by Fornarelli’s sympathetic brushwork and Bulgarelli’s deeply lyrical double bass solo before the piece expands into something more forceful and groove oriented and then back again. It’s a good example of the episodic nature of some of Fornarelli’s writing, particularly appropriate with the inexorable march of time providing the inspiration for the piece.
The album ends on a breezily optimistic note with “Night Lights”, a musical depiction of a relaxing drive in the dark on a summer night with the top down. Liberti’s playful hand drum undertow gently propels Fornarelli’s relaxedly joyous soloing (the pianist doubles up on Fender Rhodes for the tune’s opening statement). It’s a lovely way to end a highly accomplished album.
Immaculately recorded by engineer Tommy Cavalieri at Bari’s Sorriso Studios “Room Of Mirrors” is a highly enjoyable album with a strong pictorial quality. Yes, it’s very much in thrall to E.S.T. but Fornarelli brings enough of himself to the table to make his highly personal compositions convincing. It’s very much the pianist’s record, Bulgarelli and Liberti are accomplished and sympathetic accompanists but the levels of group interaction are less than those of their Swedish mentors. Nevertheless “Room Of Mirrors” has much to offer fans of contemporary jazz piano, particularly followers of E.S.T., Neil Cowley, The Bad Plus and numerous other contemporary European and American trios from Michael Wollny’s to Brad Mehldau.
The trio are due to play at the Italian Cultural Institute at 39 Belgrave Square, London on May 16th 2012 and I’d urge anybody who may be reading this to attend if you can. On the evidence of this album this is a concert that should be well worth seeing - The JazzMann, Ian Mann

"Kekko Fornarelli Trio, Pizza Express, London"

The Italian pianist showcased his pared-down yet catchy style at this London gig

After a European tour, the Italian pianist Kekko Fornarelli brought his blend of contemporary mood jazz to London, playing from his 2011 album, Room of Mirrors. With him were Luca Alemanno on double bass and Dario Congedo on drums, a line-up that allows for close interplay between musicians and space around each instrument: a near-perfect balance of tension and freedom.
Fornarelli’s music has a pared-down yet catchy style that draws on his classical roots, with influences from pop to trip-hop to gospel. The title number started with a beefy chord sequence with harmonies straight out of Chopin – lots of major tenths and a touch of Aretha Franklin – played in a proper, two-handed style that generated a stirring emotion. Over Congedo’s groove, Alemanno’s bass was wonderfully free and funky. His later solo was beautifully contrasting, Bach-like with echoes of Kind of Blue.
“Flavour of Clouds” began like a familiar old song, Fornarelli’s delicate right hand letting the melody shine through. He has a knack of conjuring a mood, a place, a story. “I write films in my mind,” he declared; and it’s true that each song could be a movie score. Most of them build to an anthemic climax, and in this instance Congedo let rip, soloing at a rock-stadium level that rather overwhelmed the carefully layered resonances.
The band kicked into gear in the second set, more relaxed and tighter. “Daily Jungle” was a pulsating soundscape, a hip-hop drum riff interweaving with chromatic piano chords, threads of melody and a grooving bass line. Throughout, Alemanno was visually arresting, at times closing his eyes and clasping his bass to him like a lover, then swinging his hips joyfully as he plucked out a riff.
In the soulful ballad, “Living to Come Back”, Fornarelli tried to resist the obvious key changes but occasionally his choices were odd; here, it would be better to go with the flow rather than impose the neoclassical. More successful was “Coffee and Cigarettes”, where his authentic bluesy piano intro led into an upbeat West Coast swing.
Based on his own life experience, Fornarelli’s music is self-reflective but never self-indulgent. Credit, too, to the band’s well-rehearsed, disciplined performance, in which their finely crafted – not over-long – solos always related to the tunes. British players, take note.
- The Financial Times, Alison Gunn

"Kekko Fornarelli Trio, Pizza Express Jazz Club - review"

There has never been a wider variety of jazz-piano trios than right now, especially in Europe, and Kekko Fornarelli leads one of the most interesting examples. After needlessly apologising for his English — “Not good but I’m taking it day by day” — the young Italian made an excellent job of expounding the perils of an artist returning to live performance after a three-year break to shake off the old and investigate the most personal recesses in his music.

His new album, Room of Mirrors — which should possibly be Hall of Mirrors — is meant to reflect the many new viewpoints he now had. In practice, the result is a trio in which Luca Alemanno and Dario Congedo, his excellent double-bassist and drummer, maintain the rhythmic tension while the leader broods in splendid isolation.

Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn and Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus can also play this game but here the introversion level is even deeper than with Scandinavian romantics such as Tord Gustavsen and the late Esbjorn Svensson. For a pianist who claims the late Michel Petrucciani as a primary influence, there’s precious little right-hand agility on show.

British pianists Django Bates, James Pearson and Alex Wilson can all technically blow Kekko away but he’s on to something else — a very Italian passion for melody and the richer harmonies at the bass end of the keyboard.

I foresee a career for him in film scores. Who knows, Signor Fornarelli could become the next Enrico Morricone. - Evening Standard, Jack Massarick

"Review: KEKKO FORNARELLI TRIO at Pizza Express Dean Street"

(Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean St., Mon 3rd September 2012 – review by Alison Bentley)

Missing e.s.t? Wondering what direction they would have taken? Italian pianist Kekko Fornarelli's Room of Mirrors CD (Auand Records, 2011) and major European tour takes the jazz/classical/rock mix a step further. The album is his tribute to the late Esbjorn Svensson but the sound is his own.

Despite early acclaim for Fornarelli's jazz, Room of Mirrors came after a wilderness period of three years, when he left the jazz scene to find out what kind of music he really wanted to play. He returned to his first love- the classical piano he studied at Bari Conservatoire- and his compositions are like classical pieces, with development and recapitulation, rather than head-solo-head. There are taut arrangements and plenty of space for improvisation. He holds images in his mind when writing- the mirror reflections of his experience.

Most of the tunes on the gig were from the album, and each tune had its own emotional world. Some were eerie and melancholic, enhanced by subliminal synth sounds played by Fornarelli, notably in the opening tune Room of Mirrors. His 2008 album, A Frenchman in New York, was a tribute to Michel Petrucciani, and although Fornarelli's moved away from mainstream jazz, there are still plenty of Petrucciani or Herbie Hancock influences in his improvising.

Fornarelli wanted to get away from virtuosity for its own sake, and he plays vulnerably, with real feeling, as well as a superb pianistic technique. Luca Alemanno's fine arco bass solo over synth sounds -looped with echo- was like playing in a thunderstorm.

Fornarelli admires the Romantic composers, and The Flavour of Clouds had hints of Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata, with a bluesy feel, with a strong back beat. Drummer Dario Congedo created a huge, richly-textured sound with brushes -the cymbals' rivets shimmered. The piano solo over a hip hop groove recalled Jonathan Gee, with his eloquent lyricism and sureness of touch. Dream and Compromise had a dark intensity, an emotional high point, with its far-reaching Rachmaninov-like chords, strong propulsive bass and a drum solo with elements of drum 'n' bass.

Time Goes On had a Chopinesque melody, in 6/8 but harmonised in a bitter-sweet melodic minor mode- with a touch of Giant Steps. Fornarelli's gorgeous solo recalled John Taylor, another jazz pianist influenced by classical composers. Alemanno's bass solo was melodic and expressive, reaching out to the audience.

New tunes Big Bang Theory and Being in the Moment had rock features (the trio all admire Radiohead) and asymmetrical rhythms- Big Bang Theory was in 10. Fornarelli often solos in the lower part of the piano- he also reinforced the bassist's lines with his left hand, increasing the intensity of these pieces.

Daily Jungle's piano intro recalled Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, before the composition brilliantly fused elements of tango and dubstep. Night Lights, too, combined a strong tune with Dario Congedo's creative use of electronic drum styles, all played on the kit. The effect was electrifying- tight, edgy rhythms and a sense of longing. Coffee and Cigarettes was an upbeat portrayal of time spent with friends, a carefree funky groove and memorable Jarretty melody, some dubstep-style 'bass drop' seconds of silence, and an amazing counterpoint piano solo.

And I can't stop listening to the CD: a fusion of Romantic classical music, modern jazz and 21st century dance rhythms, played with Italian brio from the heart. - London Jazz Blog, Alison Bentley

"Kekko Fornarelli – review Pizza Express, London"

Kekko Fornarelli, the young Italian pianist, tells audiences that his current music is the result of a major life-and-art reappraisal – he calls it his own personal "big bang". It wasn't immediately obvious in his trio's London performance – the group initially seemed to occupy a generic space between the emphatic pop-chord potency of the Bad Plus and the guileful storytelling and impressionism of the late Esbjörn Svensson. After 10 minutes, however, it was evident that this classy threesome had very different stories to tell.

Fornarelli is a skilful instrumentalist with classical roots and a subtle improviser's mind, but this band's impact is a collective achievement. Double bassist Luca Alemanno was everywhere: in unison with the piano, throbbing inside a groove and delivering thoughtful improvisations of precise pizzicato and secure upper-range bowing. Drummer Dario Congedo sustained a hailstorm of snare-drum snaps and busy cymbal patterns; though, in such a small room, he sometimes steamrollered the piano sound, the effect was feverishly exciting.

The chord anthems of the opening piece soon gave way to a soft bass interlude, and its classically-inflected finale was wrapped in whispering electronics. A more playful theme from Fornarelli and Alemanno in graceful unison was picked up by a funk pulse that vibrantly swelled and then receded to a quiet tick. A quietly meditative and then percussive chord pattern built to a choral roar, an EST-like fast groove returned, Fornarelli pushed and prodded at his bassist's ensuing break as if he anticipated every turn, and though the following full-on drum barrage was inevitable, it was dazzlingly done. Fornarelli likes the middle and low registers, where his two partners are also active, but he doesn't give himself as much open space as his piano ingenuity perhaps deserves. Still, it was resoundingly obvious why this close-knit, thoughtful and viscerally exciting new trio are winning acclaim across Europe. - The Guardian, John Fordham


Room of mirrors
Label Auand Records
Edition details Jazz Engine Ed. Musicali

A French Man in New York
Label Wide Sound
Edition details Musicomania Ed.

Circular Thought
Label Wide Sound
Edition details Musicomania Ed.



Kekko Fornarelli (born Francesco Fornarelli - Bari, Italy 1978) is one of the most widely appreciated young pianists internationally. He began learning piano at the age of three, first through private tuition and later at Conservatorio Piccinni, Bari. Fornarelli's love for jazz music began at the age of 18, when he decided to drop out of music school to immerse himself in a life journey of musical discovery, which led him to travel all over the world. Opportunities were created throughout this journey allowing him the chance to meet a great number of artists - including Michel Benita, Yuri Goloubev, Benjamin Henocq, Nicolas Folmer, Jerome Regard, Andy Gravish, Eric Prost, Marco Tamburini, Jean-Luc Rimey Meille - and develop his skills.

In 2005 he moved to Lyon, France, where he lived for three years, meeting different artists, such as Manhu Roche, Flavio Boltro and Rosario Giuliani.
In 2009, at a time when Fornarelli's talent had started to become widely recognized after two albums Circular Thought and A French Man in New York – both critically acclaimed - he made the decision to take a break. Three years of darkness, as he himself defined this period, spent contemplating and pursuing knowledge towards his personal vision of music. This period of time led him to shape the idea that jazz needs to turn into something different, to free itself from its sometimes outdated traditions and from its temptations to withdraw into itself.
His latest album, Room of Mirrors, released in 2011 embodies the new ideologies from his explorations. After three years of silence, Kekko Fornarelli becomes a subject of conversation once more, also thanks to his new project - the Kekko Fornarelli Trio, that has been successfully touring all around Europe.