Lorenzo Masotto: Rule and Case
Preserved Sound

With all eleven of its pieces written, arranged, and produced by Lorenzo Masotto, Rule and Case very clearly presents an in-depth portrait of the artist. Hailing from Verona, the Italian pianist and composer makes his first appearance on Preserved Sound and his second at textura, a review of his excellent Seta collection having appeared in these pages but months ago.

Rule and Case is a bold attempt by Masotto to achieve a comfortable balance between the precision of formally composed music rooted in classical harmony and the freedom associated with live playing and small-group interaction. Other balances come into play throughout the album, including ones involving acoustic and electronic instruments and the reconciling of tradition with audacious advancement. Masotto is well-equipped to take on such challenges: a piano player since nine, he's a graduate of the Conservatorio di Verona, plays in the post-rock outfit Le Maschere di Clara, and composes music for film and theatre when not directing a male choir or teaching piano and composition. Evidence of his rich engagement with life comes through in the recording, specifically in the material's stylistic breadth and the passion and conviction with which it's executed.

Playing piano and synthesizers, the leader's accompanied throughout by a quartet of string players—violinists Laura Masotto, Lorenzo Gugole, violist Luca Cacciatori, and cellist Eleuteria Arena—and on three tracks drummer Bruce Turri; rounding out the contributors, saxophonist Luca Donini and trombonist Ivan Brusco appear on the no-holds-barred closer “Rainbow.”

The electro-acoustic dimension is in place from the moment “Senhal” inaugurates the album, but so too is Masotto's refined melodic sensibility. With strings and drums augmenting his lead piano, the setting's music, wistful and transporting in equal measure, achieves a full-bodied dimensionality that maximizes its impact. The classical character of Masotti's music comes most strongly to the forefront when the sound palette is reduced to piano and strings, or even just strings alone, as happens hauntingly during “Orient Express” and “Branchie.”

Masotti's forward-thinking tendencies permeate a number of tracks: in “Kepler 452 b” minimal strings and piano appear against a backdrop of electronic fuzz, and during “Parkour” Turri's prog-funk pulse lends the album a flavour far different from the classical world elsewhere presented. But as interesting as such pieces are, it's the melodic classical settings that register strongest. Armed with the kind of abundant melodic gifts so affectingly displayed in settings such as “Purple Lake” and “Orient Express,” Masotti would seem to be a natural as far as film soundtrack composing is concerned, and his ability at conveying mood is just as convincingly demonstrated on “Polyphonic Dreams” and “Photos.”

February 2016