20 January 2020 (released)
17 March 2020
In music, we are often amazed by works that build rich tapestries of sound. Ornate symphonies by Beethoven or The Beatles Sgt. Pepper. These may be towering feats of stacked orchestration but there is a certain amount of leeway that arises from having that many layers. To have one solo instrument have to fill the entire aural space is the ultimate test of musicianship. It is an impressive enough feat on the piano which has the added benefit of a sustain pedal to keep the chords ringing fully beneath the ensuing melodies and the ability to use all ten fingers to play notes (although some progressive guitarists do make use of all ten). However, to fill an album entirely with solo guitar is a commendable achievement.
Italian jazz guitarist Riccardo Chiarion has played with countless ensembles and now, armed with his Gibson ES175, he has crafted a beautifully fluid and mesmerizing album of solo jazz guitar. Quiet Stories showcases Chiarion's nimble and tasteful musicianship with a record that you can sit back and get lost in. Inspired by jazz greats like Bill Evans, Chiarion devotes a particular focus on “filling out the sound” with creative and moving counterpoint and bass harmonies.
The album's title, as well as the snowy, empty country road on the cover, suggests a sleepy, hibernating vibe. However, while that may be the main focus, several of the album's works teem with the spirited enthusiasm of warmer days. The opener 'Delicato' strafes spontaneously across the sonic landscape, crisscrossing octaves with ease. The aptly titled 'Green' evokes open meadows and lush forests with a swinging bounce. 'Your Lives' springs boisterously with lively high-pitched runs, like running down a beach on a hot summer day.
Softer, more demure tracks like 'Sentimentale' rely on the wistful nature of ringing, suspended chords to convey a sense of reflection, longing and a dozy disposition common amidst the winter months. As a truly inspired player, Chiarion's pieces feel like a conversation. Heavy bass note statements are responded to with an animated rebuttal from the treble strings. An intimate understanding of micro-dynamics makes the collection feel like a living breathing interaction.
'Fields and Sky' and 'Silence' close out the album with perhaps the most catchy tracks as Chiarion returns frequently to familiar melodic lines. His slinky, rising and falling chromatic line gives the album a repetitive refrain on which to close out. Quiet Stories relishes in the transportive nature of solo music. While focusing intently on particular sections will give you an appreciation for his stylistic choices and sheer skill at the instrument, it is in relaxing the mind and getting lost in the music where one draws the biggest benefit. The album acts as a meditation, a mantra to calm the soul.