“I come from nothing and I’m going into the beyond”
He started studying the piano at the age of six and made his professional debut at 15. After graduating at the music Conservatory in Florence in 1993 – and a brief experience as a session musician in the pop world with Raf, Jovanotti and others – he became an established jazz musician, playing on stages such as the Town Hall in New York, the Barbican in London, the Scala in Milan and the Salle Pleyel in Paris. His collaboration with Enrico Rava, that has lasted uninterrupted since 1996, has been crucial. At his side he performed hundreds of concerts and recorded 13 CDs. The most recent include: Tati (2005), The Third Man (2007) and New York Days (2008). Throughout his career, he has worked with musicians like Richard Galliano, Bill Frisell, Gato Barbieri, Sol Gabetta, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny and Chick Corea, with whom he recorded live Orvieto (2011).
In 1998, he led the band L’Orchestra del Titanic and paid tribute to the Italian music of the 1930s and 1940s with Abbassa la tua radio, a record-show with, among others, Elio, Peppe Servillo, Marco Parente, Barbara Casini, Roberto Gatto. Some of his works are particularly unusual, such as La gnosi delle fanfole, together with singer-songwriter Massimo Altomare inspired by texts written by Fosco Maraini (1998); Cantata dei Pastori Immobili, a music oratorio for four voices, created on the texts by David Riondino (2004); and the record of Scandinavian songs Gleda (2005). He is the artistic producer and arranger of Bobo Rondelli’s record Disperati intellettuali ubriaconi (2002), thanks to which he won the Ciampi award.
Between 2002 and 2006, he recorded four CDs for the French Label Bleu: Les Fleures Bleues, Smat smat, Concertone and I Visionari. 2006 was also the year of Piano Solo (album of the year for “Musica Jazz”). In 2007 BollaniCarioca was released, recorded in Rio De Janeiro; in December, he was the second musician, after Antonio Carlos Jobim, to play a grand piano in a favela, and in the following years he assiduously collaborated with Brazilian musicians like Hamilton de Holanda, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and Egberto Gismonti. He also played his piano for Italian pop-rock artists, amongst whom Irene Grandi, with whom he signed the album Irene Grandi e Stefano Bollani (2012).
His most recent productions include: Big Band (2013); Joy In Spite of Everything (2014); Sheik Yer Zappa (2014), a live recording dedicated to Frank Zappa; Arrivano gli alieni (2015), where he tried his hand as a singer-songwriter for the first time; Napoli Trip (2016), with Daniele Sepe, Manu Katché, Jan Bang and others; Mediterraneo (ACT 2017), a live recording in Berlin with Jesper Bodilsen, Morten Lund, Vincent Peirani and some members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, arranged by Geir Lysne.
In the classical field, he has performed as a soloist with symphonic orchestras (Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Orchestre de Paris, Filarmonica della Scala in Milan, Santa Cecilia in Rome, Toronto Symphony Orchestra) alongside conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Kristjan Järvi, Daniel Harding, Antonio Pappano and especially Riccardo Chailly, with whom he recorded Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in Fa by Gershwin in a CD (2010) that won the Italian Platinum disk selling over 70,000 copies. He also recorded Concerto in Sol by Maurice Ravel (2012) and in 2013 a live DVD recorded at the Scala in Milan and that included Gershwin’s Concerto in Fa.
His desire to communicate has crossed into the world of publishing. In 2006, he published the novel La sindrome di Brontolo, for Baldini Castoldi Dalai, followed by Parliamo di musica (2013) and Il monello, il guru, l’alchimista e altre storie di musicisti (2015), both published by Mondadori. He appeared in the weekly publication Topolino as a character called Paperefano Bolletta and was then also appointed its Ambassador. In 2017, Trigono Edizioni published Dialoghi tra alieni, conversazioni su universi vicini e lontani which Bollani signed together with Mauro Biglino, Anne Givaudan and Igor Sibaldi.
For radio, he was creator and presenter, with David Riondino and Mirko Guerrini, of the show Dottor Djembè (Rai Radio 3, 2006-2012), which also led to the writing of the book Lo Zibaldone del Dottor Djembè (2008) and the TV special Buonasera Dottor Djembè (Rai 3, 2010). The Rai Radio 3 programmes’ theme songs have been his since 2009.
In theater, he has worked with Claudio Bisio, Maurizio Crozza, Giuseppe Battiston, Marco Baliani, the Banda Osiris and others. He composed the music for three plays by Lella Costa (Alice, una meraviglia di paese, Amleto and Ragazze) and for the Antigone by Cristina Pezzoli. An honorary member of the Italian Association of Pataphysics, he is co-author and actor in the play La Regina Dada, created with Valentina Cenni in 2016.
On TV, he is a permanent guest of Renzo Arbore in the show Meno siamo meglio stiamo (Rai 1, 2005) and creator, author and host in the two editions of Sostiene Bollani (Rai 3, 2011 and 2013), in which he brought live music to the small screen. His latest TV project is L’importante è avere un piano (Rai 1, 2016): seven late-night episodes on Rai 1 with guests, improvisations and live music.