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That unfeasibly complex machine, the piano, has evolved to the point where silky smooth sound and microscopically engineered response are taken for granted. A clavichord player like Brighton’s Paul Simmonds might remind us, however, how clunk and clank were an integral part of early keyboard music. Now Italian pianist Nicola Cipani tackles a score of low maintenance New Yorkjunkheaps, the kind of instrument that would elicit foaming-at-the-mouth fury from a touring concert pianist were he to find one on his stage. There’s playful fun and considerable style in this sequence of 24 short pieces. Cipani has to establish a relationship with each battered beast, and he plays with real appreciation of the unique qualities of a particular neglected instrument. Sometimes he works from the keyboard: “La Deutsche Vita” is a tune rendered woozily unrecognisable by extreme tuning problems. Other times he climbs inside and works like a percussionist, with an impressive range of techniques. Pitches shimmer and slide as Cipani wields a bottleneck device, and “Accent Elimination 1″ sounds like subtle application of a tremolo effect – or maybe that actually is a clavichord, where pressure on the keys can vibrate the strings. “Paramour” is very effective, riffing on notes so broken as to be almost silent. Other tracks, like opener “Body Hair Rag”, are robust and rapid, jangling celebrations of loose parts and grand piano resonance. The record recalls British improvisor Mike Adcock’s Moments Of Discovery – Adcock’s “Quickly Prepared Piano” used ajacket or some such tossed inside the instrument. Cipani has found a lot of music inside his ramshackle machines, and briefly restored them to blazing life.

Clive Bell

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