Jazz pianist Stefano Bollani was born in Milan, Italy, on December 5, 1972. He began playing piano as a child in order to accompany his singing, but soon concentrated solely on the instrument, enrolling in a conservatory in Florence when he was 11. There, he studied both jazz and pop music, and after graduating in 1993, added his keyboard skills to albums for many of Italy's top pop stars, including Laura Pausini, Irene Grandi, and Jovanotti. When working with the latter in 1996 he met avant-garde jazz trumpeter Enrico Rava, who invited the young pianist to play with him in Paris, an opportunity Bollani quickly accepted.
The pianist's ECM debut as a leader, Piano Solo, was issued in 2007. That same year he played on Tati with drummer Paul Motian in a Rava-led trio, and in duet with the trumpeter on The Third Man. In 2008 Bollani shifted gears and led two large-group ensembles for Verve. The first was entitled Carioca, while the second was simply called Big Band! The following year, he and the trio delivered Stone in the Water for ECM. In 2010 Bollani appeared as a soloist with conductor Ricardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester in an all-Gershwin program for Decca (Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; Catfish Row; Concerto in F), released in Europe that year and globally in 2011. Orvieto, his duet recording with Chick Corea, appeared on ECM in 2011 as well.
The pianist issued a slew of records in 2012 and 2013 in various settings, including two more duet offerings: a self-titled album with Italian pop singer Irene Grandi and O Que Será, a collection with Brazilian bandolim (a ten-string mandolin) player Hamilton de Holanda. Ever ambitious, Bollani reconvened his trio and enlisted guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Mark Turner as guests in a diverse program of original material arranged for various groupings from quintet to duo. Joy in Spite of Everything was issued in the late summer of 2014 on ECM, followed by Arrivano Gli Alieni on Universal in 2015. The following year, he paid homage to the Italian city of Naples with Napoli Trip. ~ Marisa Brown & Thom Jurek