Whitetree / June 6, 2009 / Los Angeles (Hotel Café)

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If you’re Italian, somewhat in tune with contemporary classical music or saw a lick of the NBA playoffs this year, chances are you’ve heard the music of Ludovico Einaudi. The 53-year old Italian composer, with more than 9 albums under his belt, is beginning to make inroads into mainstream American culture, thanks in part to a slew of recent high profile media placements, including 11 of those “Where Will Amazing Happen This Year” NBA television spots starring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others, as well as films like “The Reader.”

Einaudi has also recently formed a band called Whitetree, featuring German-born brothers Robert and Ronald Lippok on drums and electronics respectively, and the trio just wrapped up a string of American dates last week. At the Hotel Café in Los Angeles on Saturday (June 6th), Whitetree dazzled a packed house of darkly-dressed sophisticates with selections of electro-acoustic classical pieces from its debut LP "Cloudland" (Ponderosa Music & Art).

When Einaudi performs solo, his charisma and prowess on the piano alone are enough to hold audiences rapt, but Whitetree takes things to a different level. Robert Lippok’s inventive drumming (using his high-hat for a snare, and playing his drums with his finger tips) pushes the minimalist piano melodies into new directions, and brother Ronald’s electronic flourishes, which he was literally conducting on-stage, fully flesh out the dynamic range of pieces like “Tangerine,” “Kyril,” and “Mercury Sands”.

Three virtuosos combining forces is rarely so understated and emotionally powerful, but Whitetree gets the formula right. Each member’s abilites are vividly highlighted by the others’, and the sum is significantly greater than its parts. Whitetree will play several dates in Europe throughout the summer, and Einaudi will return stateside in March 2010 to tour in support of his next forthcoming solo album.