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Extraordinary Italian pianist Antonio Faraó was born in Rome in 1965. He attended the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan in the '80s, where he refined his musical gifts. Faraó began cultivating his profound love of jazz at clubs when he was only in his teens. Even then, those around him didn't miss the natural talent for piano the young man had been blessed with. Faraó started touring at an early age, playing festivals like Lugano, Merano, Lyon, Umbria Jazz, Palermo, and many others. In 1987, at only 22, he won the New Talent Prize at the X1 Music Review. Four years later, he was voted Pianist of the Year, winning the Four Roses Prize. In 1998, he was invited to enter into the international competition for the Concours Martial Solal. Faraó came away as the winner. In 1999, he saw the release of his debut album, Black Inside, on the Enja Records label. Bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts accompanied Faraó's piano work. With post-bop tracks like "Latin Dance," "Sweet," and "My One and Only Love," the album combined a Mediterranean touch with the African-American jazz styling that Faraó became known for. A sophomore effort titled Thorn followed in early 2001. As Faraó's reputation grew he was able to attract several jazz heavy-hitters to the studio, resulting in albums with saxophonist Bob Berg (2002's Far Out), bassist Miroslav Vitous (2005's Takes on Pasolini), and drummer Andre Ceccarelli (2008's Woman's Perfume and 2011s Domi). He then paired with saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Ira Coleman, and drummer Jack DeJohnette for 2014's Evan. A year later, Faraó made his Verve label debut with Boundaries, which featured several of his longtime Italian collaborators including saxophonist/drummer Mauro Negri and bassist Martin Gjakonovski. In 2017, he returned with Eklektik, which featured contributions from rapper Snoop Dogg, vocalist Walter Ricci, drummer Manu Katché, guitarist Bireli Lagrene, and others.~ Charlotte Dillon