When we last encountered Bruno Bavota, he (or a stand-in) was on a rock, staring out to sea. The new collection may be called Mediterraneo, but according to the composer, it is not about the sea. Bavota writes that it is instead about “warmth, light and love.” This being said, we still hear the sea in these sounds, like the rush of waves in a shell long after it has been brought home; after all, the title track first appeared on the Japanese version of The Secret of the Sea.
Last time, we wrote that Bavota was anything but melancholic. The new album causes us to revise our earlier impression. As everyone who has been in love knows, love is not always joyful; it can be wistful and hurtful ~ but with luck, blessing and hard work, love can also be ultimately fulfilling and transcendent. In order to capture love in music, one must capture more than a single nuance: the warmth, yes, but also the lack of warmth, the yearning for an eternal flame. When the strings drop out at the very end of “Interlude”, they leave behind the impression of a forlorn lover, whose object of desire has just left. Will they return? Of course ~ this is still Bavota, after all, and his hopes are still high. But first this lover must walk in the rain (“Home”), think about all he has, and wonder what he will be like if he loses it. When the major chords return on “Hands”, one can imagine the lovers running into each other’s arms.
The album continues on this bittersweet tangent, underlining the simple observation that love, light and warmth come and go in waves ~ and yes, once again, there’s that reference to the sea. In the most melancholic piece, “Who Loves, Lives”, these lovers, represented by Bavota’s two hands on the piano, lose and regain their energy multiple times, finally reviving, allowing the light to enter like forgiveness. In the end, the notes sound more like tenderness than weariness; they have learned to accommodate each other.
An album such as this needs a key track, and it can be found, ironically, in “The Night”. The minor notes that first appear at 1:54 transform the entire nature of the track, and by extension, the album. A song that begins with single notes, and an album that includes expanded instrumentation, finds its power in a pure piano passage that is as simple as love is complex. But must love always be complex? The vow at the altar is a leap of faith, erasing all complexity, leaving only grace. Even in the night, a light is shining somewhere. (Richard Allen)