Rossano Sportiello to play VENUE in MONTH.

Award-winning Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello returns to Nairn on Saturday May 13 with his famously colourful British rhythm section of Dave Green (bass) and Steve Brown (drums).

Sportiello has been a favourite in Nairn since the late Ken Ramage, local jazz impresario and founder of Nairn Jazz Festival, introduced him to the town via the festival and through the personal recommendation of the great jazz pianist Barry Harris.

Harris, who has worked with legends including Miles Davis and Coleman Hawkins, told Ramage that Sportiello was the best stride style pianist he’d ever heard, which is quite an accolade for a musician who set out to be a classical pianist at the age of nine in his home town of Vigevano in Lombardy, Northern Italy.

Like his fellow countryman Enrico Pieranunzi, who appeared in Findhorn last September, Sportiello played jazz all time he was studying classical music during his teens and although he went on to graduate from Milan Conservatory in 1996, he was already being recognised as a jazz talent by then.

It was during a European tour with the Milano Jazz Gang, a group that specialised in classic jazz styles, that Sportiello came to the attention of Harris. The two became friends and Harris sang the Italian’s praises to numerous colleagues in the U.S. This led to Sportiello joining trombonist Dan Barrett’s otherwise all-American all-star at the 2002 Ascona Jazz Festival in Switzerland and five years later Sportiello moved to New York, where he quickly made a strong impression.

As well as the stride style, which was developed and perfected by pianists including James P Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith and Fats Waller, Sportiello’s influences stretch from the exuberantly virtuosic Art Tatum to the more reflective Bill Evans and since moving to the States he has been called to play with numerous luminaries. Trombonist Slide Hampton, trumpeters Clark Terry and Warren Vache, clarinettist Kenny Davern, and saxophonists Houston Person and Scott Hamilton are just some of the top names he’s appeared with.

His mission in Nairn will be, as it always is.

“I want to make jazz understandable to everybody,” he says. “Most of all, I want to see people smiling and having fun.”

Rossano Sportiello as he plays Nairn Community & Arts Centre on the 13th of May at 8.00pm

Tickets £15  (students £3) from the Community Centre  (01667 453476) or at the door on the night