Bruno Bavota: The Secret of the Sea

It would be hard to imagine a prettier collection of music crossing one's path than Bruno Bavota's latest, The Secret of the Sea. The Italian pianist-composer's third album (issued in a 300-copy run with the CD housed inside an ejector case) casts a loving eye upon his Naples home-town and the sea's waves and rocking movements. Certainly he's not the first to have drawn inspiration from such subject matter—Debussy's La Mer and Ravel's Une barque sur l'océan both spring readily to mind—but Bavota is less preoccupied, one presumes, with creating something sui generis than sharing with prospective listeners a personalized and heartfelt homage.

And it truly is a personal project, with Bavota the one solely responsible for all of the forty-two-minute recording's compositions and sounds. Though he's established himself as a pianist, he also plays guitar (acoustic and electric) on the album, and uses delay and reverb to help bring its eleven songs to life. A typical Bavota setting is rooted in strong melodies and radiates joy, melancholy, and wistfulness in equal measure. Piano playing often occupies a given song's center and when not presented alone is augmented by guitar. There are also, however, pieces where the guitar assumes the dominant role with the piano assuming a more secondary part (e.g., “If Only My Heart Were Wide Like the Sea”). Those distinctive melodic gifts are on full display in a soothing setting such as “Me and You,” while listeners with an appetite for solo piano playing will find their appetites well-sated by pieces like “Les nuits blanches” and “Plasson.” His is a consistently harmonious sound, and one often uplifting, too, as dramatic pieces such as “The Man Who Chased the Sea” and “Northern Lights” illustrate.

Song titles like “The Boy and the Whale” and “The Man Who Chased the Sea” suggest that Bavota approaches his music with the mindset of a story-teller, someone intent on distilling a sweeping narrative into concise musical form. Given how melodically expressive his music is, Bavota would appear to be a natural candidate for film soundtrack composing, while his propensity for crafting music generally free of despair and sunny in disposition suggests that he also would be a natural at composing music for children's projects. In fact, there are moments during the album when Bavota's music could conceivably be mistaken for something by Amélie soundtrack composer Yann Tiersen, an equally strong melodicist.

March 2014