CD Review: Roberto Pistolesi, Open Lands and Moving People

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Recently the latest album from drummer Roberto Pistolesi, titled “Open Lands and Moving People”, landed on my desk for review. Recently I’ve reviewed a number of drummer led albums, the last being a set by New York drummer Ilya Dyno. The reason I mention this is because with Dyno’s album the drums actually played a fairly traditional and subdued roll in the performances with the leaders main creative focus targeted toward the compositions. With “Open Lands and Moving People” this is not the case.

While Pistolesi does take credit for the compositions on this set, in my opinion it’s his drumming that forms the centerpiece to this album. That said, this is not an album featuring never ending drum solo’s, what I’m getting at here is that Pistolesi’s playing and the groove that it forms is the central pillar that this album seems to be built around.

The album includes 10 original compositions all penned by Pistolesi with co-credit for the lyrics going to vocalist Sanne Huijbregts. All of the arrangements are quite complex and I particularly liked the manner in which the players are at times dislodged from their traditional rolls delivering some very interesting twists and turns. If I wanted to be poetic, I would say this album seems to be a conversation between multiple players with a drummer moderating the proceedings. In the press release accompanying the album the writer states: “The music that emerges is a mixture of harmonic power, lyricism and rhythmic research…” I think this is an fairly accurate description, the album is certainly harmonically powerful, often lyrical however at times quite academic and I don’t necessarily mean this in a negative context. While complex, there is a organic flow to the music albeit one that the listener may need more than one listening to discover.

As previously stated, Pistolesi’s approach makes for a highly interesting album full of surprises. Take for instance “Orchestral Unfavourites”, a piece that first of delivers a somewhat orchestra soundscape building tension and rhythmic complexity before pianist Roberto Tarenzi takes the reins delivering a highly impressive solo over the inherent complex rhythmic base. The albums opening track “High Res Skies” does exactly what album opener should, set the scene for what the album is about. Guitarist, Teis Semey is front and center here, I enjoyed the way his solo consistently built tension specifically with the entry of Tarenzi’s comping that added extra depth.

The album contains an interesting mix of compositional styles, some tracks, such as “Serious Moves Towards An Argument” and “The Big Wave” are largely through-composed only opening up for improvisation later in the the arrangements. Other tracks such as “Critical Battery, Please Charge” allow far more room for improvisation. I found this to be an appropriate approach for the album as it fits the overall “ensemble’ concept 0f the music and contributes to the diversity displayed within the arrangements.

Sanne Huijbregts appears as a vocalist on four tracks (two of which she carries co-credits for the lyrics), as well as contributing vibraphone on a few tracks. The two tracks where she is co-credited as lyricist, “Latina and “And the Infinite Sadness” are quite consistent with with my comment above about traditional roles being dislodged as the vocal passages in no way form the focus of the piece as one would expect in a more conventual song format. On the four tracks where she appears her voice is used mainly as an instrumental stem. I specifically enjoyed the way her vocals were blended in the unisono tutti passages on “C-Ornette Alla Cream” and, in particular, her scat chorus on this track stands out.

Both Daniel Juarez (Tenor Saxophone) Teis Semey (guitar) take the majority of the solo’s on the album and both display great taste and virtuosity while at all times keeping the general ensemble feel of the album. Bassist Zack Lober, is rock solid throughout, blending seamlessly with Pistolesi playing creating the rhythmic basis that this album is built around. The role of pianist Roberto Tarenzi should not be under estimated, granted there is not a major soloistic role given to him here, however his playing is critical to providing the harmonic glue that holds the proceeding together. That said he is given space to stretch out in “Latina” and “Orchestral Unfavourites”

So this all raises the question, do I like this album. Well, yes I do a great deal, there’s a lot going on here and the more I delved into it, the more I was able to get where Pistolesi is coming from and believe me that’s a pretty impressive place. Pistolesi excels on this album, not only from a compositional standpoint but also from a performance perspective. His playing is foundational to the album without being bombastic as is often the case with drummer led recordings.

There’s no doubt that this is not an album that will appeal to everyone, the music is complex and requires the listener to take the time to process the musical machinations that are going on. That said, if you do take the time, you will be rewarded with some highly interesting music performed exceptionally well.

You can stream the album at the link below:



Roberto Pistolesi, drums | Roberto Tarenzi, piano | Zack Lober, upright and electric bass | Daniel Juarez, tenor saxophone | Teis Semey, guitar | Sanne Huijbregts, vocals, vibes.

1. Hi Res Skies 6:52 | 2. Critical Battery Please Charge (Ambrosean) 5:36 | 3. And the Infinite Sadness 10:19 | 4. Latina 5:51 | 5. Orchestral Unfavourites 7:03 | 6. Serious Moves Towards An Argument 6:58 | 7. Slow March 4:42 | 8. The Big Wave 5:32 | 9. C-Ornette Alla Crema 3:51 | 10. The Craziest Things 9:02

Release Date: 17 Feb, 2023
Format: CD | Streaming
Label: Independent Release

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Last modified: September 10, 2023