Blue Sand 


US Radio Stations Airplay 

        Radio add date 1/29/2004

CMJ Jazz Adds  Top #5   for the week of 1/26/04 

JazzWeek Chart bound  as of 2/20/04

JazzWeek Chart #40 for the week of 3/5/04

Reached CMJ Jazz Chart #19 

141+  Radio Stations Total "In Play" as of 3/26/04

           52+ Stations in "Heavy" or " Medium" rotation 




Cadence Magazine  

Blue Sand presents Italian-bred/Paris-dwelling pianist Achille Gajo in collaboration with Steve Lacy's cohorts, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch.  The record consists of a series of ten compositions that focus on a rich melodicism and the trio's attuned interactions.  The majority of Gajo's compositions contain a sense of airiness and delicacy that emphasize positivity.  As a result, the music isn't complex.  However, romanticism is the aim in the program inspired by nature, human emotions, and its failings.  

For example, the album's opener, "The Window," is a fitting start, with an easygoing charm that is difficult to resist.  Equally sunny is Abdullah Ibrahim's "Mountain Of The Night" with the highlight being Avenel's spirited pizzicato work.  Gajo's Gospel influences, which are utilized throughout, are seen best on the floating ballad "Blue Sand."  It's not all levity, however, as the trio also swings convincingly during the urgent atmosphere of "Test," featuring Betsch's heavy hitting drum solo.  Avenel also has a turn at the Kora on the aptly titled "Korail," a precious dance-like piece that emphasizes the close interaction between Gajo and Avenel.  While some may be put off by the delicate nature of the program, the top flight musicianship and down to earth approach of these tunes is a delight.  

                    - Cadence Magazine - Jay Collins   6/04

©Cadence Magazine 2004. Published by CADNOR Ltd.
All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of contents prohibited without
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I admit that what attracted me initially to Italian pianist Achille Gajo's Blue Sand was the chance to hear one of the music's stellar rhythm teams in a new setting. Bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch have provided the rhythmic spine for Steve Lacy's bands since the drummer enlisted them 15 years ago; it's been a fruitful partnership. Gajo is wise to tap them to provide the close-knit interplay for his session.

Gajo plays lush post-bop impressionism that owes something to Jarrett, Corea and Hancock, as well as their forebearer Bill Evans. He loves to let his lines swell and recede, infusing them with a melodic sweetness at the core that is characteristic of Italian jazz. This is most evident on the title track: The melody shifts back and forth into a folk blues feeling, and Gajo maintains that structure throughout his solo. By giving the bassist the first solo on the track, Gajo has the chance to build his improvisation into the theme restatement for a logically and emotionally satisfying conclusion. The next track "Korail" follows on its thematic heels. Gajo employs Avenel's kora, an African harp-like instrument. Betsch here is at his most impressive, gently filling in the lowest register with tender bass drum padding that accents the melodic phrases.

Gajo also knows when to keep things simple, as on his cover of Carla Bley's "Ida Lupino". He lets the wisp of a melody float over Avenel's counterpoint and Betsch's malleted rolls and swishes. "Ida Lupino" and Abdullah Ibrahim's "Mountain of the Night" are the only covers on the 10-song set. Gajo is responsible for the other compositions, but not all are as felicitous as the title song. Some tread too familiar territory, and the ballad mood wears on the ear as the set progresses. The trio does have a couple opportunities to swing hard on "Test" and the closing "Shark Waltz", a melodic cousin to Hancock's "Dolphin Dance". Betsch, who spends much of the session using brushes, gets a chance let loose here. Avenel shares the solo spotlight throughout with Gajo, often setting up the leader with firm melodic lines. Gajo provides the ingredients of a very pleasant date; Avenel and Betsch add the musical spices that make it more savory.


                    - - David Dupont   3/04


Musica Jazz  (English Translation)  

For his new record, Gajo made a good choice of partners, Avenel and Betsch who often play together with Steve Lacy.  He has a musical vision that is quite large, from traditional to experimental.  For a pianist akin to the mainstream music, the presence of that kind of musicians is a good stimulus to his human and artistic exuberance.  When he dares, as in the dynamic Test, John and Jean-Jacques are there to give the right energy.  We can hear the fruits of decades of jazz piano from Paul Bley, Keith Jarret, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Dollar Brand and Carla Bley.  Gajo has ideas that are very spontaneous and in the moment, and he takes the lessons from these elders to develop something close to his own vitality.  As a composer as well as a pianist, he also stays far from cliche on tunes that are oriented toward a melodic style such as Bach to Steve.  

                     -   Giuseppe Piacentino   2/04


JazzIT  (English Translation)  

The new label Piadrum chooses Gajo for its start... Blue Sand is an album that is direct and is able to arrive to the listeners without pretentious complexity.  Eight tunes are his own compositions, fascinating, simple but never banal.  They are inspired by a Paris view, an African beach, Bach or Stevie Wonder.  Gajo establishes himself as a complete player, extraordinarily sensitive with an excellent technique and a bluesy touch that is between Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson.  His musical approach puts him near (with the right respect) the level of another Paris adopted pianist, Michel Petrucciani.  

                     -   Giacomoi Rossi   January/February/04


RITMO  (English Translation)  

It's too bad that the artistic evolution of this pianist, which is still a work in progress, is more in Paris than in Italy.  Perhaps because of his personality being more of a poet rather than a fighter.  In a good presentation, Jessica Shih writes in the liner notes...  

...From the start, we have an atmosphere first moved from feverish and rhythmic, then to crepuscular and romantic; with some bluesy ballads where the piano playing reminds us the past J. P. Johnson or Waller.  

                     -   Luigi Guicciardi   12/03  

As enjoyable as it is to encounter a new recording by a long-established artist, even greater pleasure can be found in the discovery of an outstanding lesser-known talent. Such is the case with Blue Sand, the new release by Italian-born, Paris-based pianist Achille Gajo and his trio. Gajo's compatriots include bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, who played together previously as Steve Lacy's longtime rhythm section. Gajo's playing and composing are consistently wonderful, and the empathetic interplay with Avenel and Betsch approaches that of classic trios past. Blue Sand is certainly one of the finest trio albums of the year.

Gajo is a deeply bluesy player with a clarity of line reminiscent of Bill Evans or early Chick Corea. His compositions are nicely varied and all memorable. “The Window” opens the album with a recurring piano/bass figure that blossoms outward into extended melodic explorations. An elegant bass feature for Avenel and Betsch's rolling solo over the vamp are highlights of this long track. “Test” is altogether spikier, showing the only traces of Lacy on the album, mixed here with a little chunky mid-'60s Brubeck for good measure.

The title track, a lovely ballad with gospel-blues touches, again showcases Avenel, who switches to the kora, an African harp-like string instrument, for “Korail.” The interplay with Gajo's piano on this exotic tune fills the air with gorgeous curlicues of melody, while Betsch fills in the bottom end with a little extra bass drum work. Versions of Abdullah Ibrahim's “Mountain of the Night” and Carla Bley's “Ida Lupino” are stellar, but the trio saves the best for last. “Shark Waltz” (a play on Herbie Hancock's “Dolphin Dance”) is alternately propulsive and wistful, with a funky main line that would be irresistible even if not driven home by such fantastic playing.

Everything about this album is first-class, and one can only hope that the indie label Piadrum can get it distributed widely enough to reach the audience it deserves. Gajo is a major new talent, and if he can keep this excellent trio together, we can expect masterpieces from him in the future.


                    - - Joshua Weiner   11/03  

There are rare too few piano trios where the musicians play with the unbridled joy and happiness in the simple fact they make their music together. A situation where you can aurally tell the musicians are having the absolute best of times because of the ease with which they transmit their love of playing in each other's company. And then to all of this they play at the highest of musical levels. The Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro trio had it, and it's abundantly clear the Achille Gajo Trio has it as well. From the first note of The Window to the splash at the end of the last track, this group settles in to a feeling sorely lacking in most jazz recordings today: total sympathy, respect and love with musical nuance and élan.

Bassist and kora (a stringed African instrument) player Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, former members of the Steve Lacy trio, are joined by Italian pianist Achille Gajo for a disc of music that moves you delicately from within. The melodies are delightful in the manner similar to Vince Guaraldi's music: light and sweet with an undercurrent of harmonic uniqueness. There's no head-banging or thrashing of instruments here, just musicians mature and comfortable enough to know a good thing isn't dependent on needless displays of technique or volume in order to make a cogent musical statement. I defy anyone who listens to this disc not to want to immediately listen to it again and again and again - it's that good.

Gajo is an extremely adept musician who finds ways to mix his American gospel/Richard Tee influences, listen to the rolling left hand bass octaves during Blue Sand and the right hand dancing in Rwanda, with his superb feel for time just off-kilter enough to arouse delicate feelings of anticipation, as in the triple meter shifts of Shark Waltz. More than ably supported by longtime under appreciated drummer John Betsch's nimble cymbal work and Avenel's tasteful use of the upper reaches of his upright bass, this trio cooks the way you wish all bands did. If you're a student of jazz and you don't own this recording, shame on you, and if you're a lover of jazz you should have ordered this disc yesterday.

                    - - Dr. Thomas Erdmann   11/03



All Music Guide

        When American jazz enthusiasts visit cities like Vienna, Stockholm, Munich and Amsterdam, they learn that Western Europe really does have a dedicated jazz audience. No, Jackie McLean isn't outselling Britney Spears in that part of the world, but the Europeans who do spend money on jazz in those cities are a highly enthusiastic, dedicated bunch. And American travelers also learn that the jazz scenes in the larger cities of Western Europe can be highly competitive; you need to know your stuff if you hope to earn a living playing jazz in Milan or Paris. Blue Sand, in fact, is an enjoyable indication of the sort of jazz talent that one can expect to find in the City of Lights. This 2003 date finds Italian pianist Achille Gajo (who has lived in Paris since 1996) forming a trio with two Steve Lacy sidemen: bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch (who moved to Paris in 1985). But Blue Sand doesn't sound like a Lacy album—there's no sax, and Gajo's compositions don't resemble Lacy compositions. Rather, this is an album of post-bop piano jazz, and Gajo favors the sort of cleaning-sounding pianism one associates with Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Ahmad Jamal and Michel Petrucciani. Gajo is a poetic, introspective sort of player—an approach that serves him well on eight original pieces and interpretations of Abdullah Ibrahim's "Mountain of the Night" and Carla Bley's "Ida Lupino" (which was named after an excellent, if somewhat underrated, actress of the ‘40s and ‘50s). One of the most interesting tracks is "Korail," which finds Avenel stretching out on the kora (a traditional African string instrument). Blue Sand falls short of exceptional, but it's a solid, worthwhile effort for Gajo and his fellow Paris residents.          


                    - All Music - Alex Henderson   11/03



Sunny Side (English Translations)

        Italian pianist Achille Gajo releases his best album as a lead on a newly established jazz label based in New Jersey, U.S.  The members of this trio, along with Gajo, are active sidemen of the Steve Lacy Trio, Jean-Jacques Avenel and John Betsch.  Recently, the trio has been working together with particular intricacy as can be heard from the high quality of their musical collaboration.  Gajo's touch on piano is very smooth and elegant, with a European style through which clarity prevails throughout his solos.  Avenel and Betsch collectively create a powerful as well as sophisticated rhythm that goes well with Gajo's performance.  The melodies are beautiful and easy to comprehend, and several pieces have a wonderful combination of rhythm and solos.  On the fast-tempo third track, Test, the three develop a rolling vigor and unhesitating fluency.  Throughout the album they establish a complete control of pace and pitch, which entices the listener.  Many elements of this album are a pleasure to listen to, and the recording by this piano trio is highly recommended.  

         - Sunny Side   9/03


Jazzyell (English Translations)

        The newly established Jazz independent label Piadrum, based in New Jersey, has released the ultimate piano trio album.  Achille Gajo has studied composition with Enrico Pieranunzi in Rome, with Philippo Dacco in Milan, and with Enrico Rava in Siena.  Gajo was greatly influenced by their work, and many of his original pieces on this album reflect their legacy.  Bassist Jean Jacques Avenel, with whom Gajo often tours, and drummer John Betsch present a highly sophisticated and elegant performance.  The balance of sound created by the three players is excellent as the graceful notes of Gajo's piano blend superbly with Betsch's sharp drums.  

         - Jazzyell  Vol. 56  8,9/03