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The phrase “New Orleans pianist” instantly calls to mind keyboard kings such as Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, James Booker and other greats, as well as a rollicking style that has produced good times across myriad genres for generations. And while this geographic label can also be applied to Oscar Rossignoli, he doesn’t settle for merely echoing the past on Inertia, his first solo piano project. Rather, he offers a rich and diverse soundscape that extends well beyond a single spot on the map.
A native Honduran who was educated in Louisiana and makes his home in the Big Easy, Rossignoli proves throughout the collection, which was cut in NOLA late last year, that he’s no one-trick pony. For instance, “Pendulum,” is an improvisation that opens with Rossignoli patiently exploring a number of sonic options, allowing notes to ring and recede before choosing his next direction. What follows is a chordal ebb and flow that’s deliberate yet brims with rich romanticism.
Elsewhere, Rossignoli displays his Latin roots on “Siempre,” a ballad loaded with melodies that build to an emotional boil, and “Long Story Short,” which conjures images of passionate partners swirling across a dance floor, eyes ablaze. On “Nocturno,” Rossignoli dallies with classical forms that vacillate between intricate figures and bursts of energy, while on “Preludio for Chick,” he pays tribute to the late Mr. Corea, evoking the master’s intricate rhythms without ever resorting to mere mimicry.
Hints of New Orleans’ piano trademarks turn up on occasion. Take “Vámonos!,” which finds the pianist using spontaneity to sprightly ends, hammering out tuneful patterns that vibrate with sheer pleasure. But Rossignoli makes it clear on Inertia that he’s less interested in replicating the musical history of his adopted hometown than he is in making some of his own.