Finding a good piano to record this album in Mérida, Venezuelan Andean in 2011, led Leo Blanco to Teatro César Rengifo. The instrument found was receiving its first impressions when Leo encountered an outsider sound. Thetheatre sits next to an XVIII century chapel and its bells announces its unexpected but punctual presence. The bells’ intrusion causes a sudden change on Blanco’s improvisation –Improvisation II– to have their say before he continues playing.
Two nights of recording: The first without audience, the second a public concert. Few hours after the last one was over, Blanco returned with his sound engineer to the theatre to catch the sound of midnight tolling and record the moment with added piano improvisation for Haiku for midnight Bells and Piano. Some tracks with audience applause, some without, some tracks with noises from cameras, floorboards, crickets… and the bells.
Each piece was either completely or partly improvised. For Leo, the noises are a welcome part of this work. On Improvisation I, he conjures a dramatic melody with a rhapsodic development that leads to a kind of mad campanology on the keyboard.
Blanco is, at heart, a natural melodist. His improvised musical ideas appear to woo the audience with melodies that will long stay with them. The contemplative and nocturnal quality of Light Over Dark, illustrates the blend of delicacy and strength in Blanco’s playing. Every improvisation in this concert has its own story. There’s a filmic quality, particularly to the spontaneously realised pieces. It’s clear that Mérida is a land that Blanco always finds inspiring.
Are there bats in that belfry whose tolling seeps into the concert? Or is that Quasimodo lurking, ready to pounce on some unsuspecting visitor? And could the church clocks be switched to the twenty-four hour system to prolong the dialogue? . There’s a whole epic screenplay unfolding here, a suggestion of Beauty and the Beast and some dizzying passages before a song construction materialises.
There, again, we have the instrument that lends itself to the title of this album, Pianoforte, in all its, literally, quiet and strong glory.