Francesca Prihasti: Adriana
By DAN BILAWSKY
September 13, 2019
Francesca Prihasti paints a series of fantastic notions and tuneful tales on Adriana. For this, her third album following Night Trip (Self Produced, 2014) and Evolving (Self Produced, 2015), the young pianist expands her palette while drawing meaning from the personal realm: The album’s inspiration is Prihasti’s late mother, Adriana, who passed away in May of 2017, so there’s a woeful shadow of a sort cast across the project. But don’t write this off as a downcast date. Rather than deliver a wailing catharsis or a dark and dignified set of dirges, Prihasti actually chooses to keep her head up. The album, awash with colors both bright and complex, is all the better for that decision.
The title track, a reflective and airy affair appearing on the album’s second half, finds Prihasti in woolgathering mode with fellow traveler Mike Rodriguez adding brassy resonance to the flowing dynamic and guitarist Nic Vardanega riding the clouds. It’s but a single, yet important, example of the way Prihasti allows precision art to settle in open air. At the album’s top, in contrast, she uses a different slant to achieve a similar balance, riding a sauntering 7/4 groove bed that offers ample space for colleagues like Vardanega, bassist Drew Gress and trombonist Alan Ferber to explore. It’s an ode to her cat and, as such, a tune that always lands on its feet.
There’s much to appreciate in this music, including Prihasti’s gifts in juxtaposing myriad ideas against one another without losing clarity. On “Time Traveler,” for example, Gress’ wide-eyed riffs and drummer Josh Roberts’ cymbal work magically dovetail and support alto saxophonist Dave Pietro’s standout work. His horn lines prove so engrossing that you hardly notice the way the rhythmic terrain shifts beneath him. And with “Verano,” the meeting of gamboling horns, gracefully proud guitar and buoyant rhythms carries the day. But when all is said and done, and the compositions and arrangements receive their due, this still remains a pianist’s album. Hearing Prihasti wax nostalgic on the introduction to “Stargazer” or observing her circling the dance floor in a trio setting on “The Emperor,” a slow-flow, waltz-esque number in six, makes that point. Thus far, Prihasti has flown under the radar but, if this album is any evidence, she’s bound to start registering with more ears soon.
Track Listing: Johnny; Time Traveller; Stargazer; Verano; Adriana; The Wind Chimes; The Emperor.
Personnel: Francesca Prihasti: piano; Nic Vardanega: guitar; Drew Gress: bass; Josh Roberts: drums; Dave Pietro: alto and soprano saxophone; Mike Rodriguez: trumpet and flugelhorn; Alan Ferber: trombone.