Enrico Pieranunzi: Live at the Village Vanguard
Pieranunzi, who made his name as one of Italy's top jazz men, rose to a higher profile in America via his work with trumpeter Chet Baker, then with alto saxophonists Lee Konitz and Phil Woods. But his finest hours have been in the trio setting, with superb recordings like the gorgeous Play Morricone (CamJazz, 2002), Ballads (CamJazz, 2006), Dream Dance (CamJazz, 2008). All three of these were recorded with bassist Marc Johnson, along with drummer Joey Baron. With Motian in Baron's place, the music changes, not for the better or worsethe Pieranunzi/Johnson/Baron trio plays on the highest level in terms of active piano triosbut with a change in personality, an added buoyancy and percussive peculiarity.
Motian displays an energized style from the beginning, on the rousing take on Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You." Pieranunzi adds melodic flourishes and twists, brightens things harmonically, and Johnson fits in just the right notes over, under and around the melody. Pieranunzi's original, "Tales from the Unexpected," is a churning flow piano notes, and eddying stream over rhythm full of surprises.
"Pensive Fragments" begins with a brooding intro, with Motian whispering on brushes behind Pieranunzi's abstractions. Johnson takes a solo, with Pieranunzi dropping single notes like icy raindrops before he takes the lead with the prettiest of reveries inside Motian's shuffling brushes. "My Funny Valentine," a jazz staple from the Great American Songbook, sounds sinister during the intro, then a light blinks on, and Pieranunzi takes things into a brighter room, giving a tune that is normally a ballad a sense of urgency, an insistent momentum.
The trio wraps it up with Italian film maker Nino Rota's "La Dolce Vita," a sprightly tune given here an injection of idiosyncratic depth with the group slipping into a a rubato mode, then shifting into a straight ahead groove, moving into a bass solo where every notethe spare piano comping, the pull of a bass string or the hit of a stick on a cymbalsounds like a divine proclamation. Then things swing back into a jaunty groove, closing out an extraordinary piano trio set, one of the year's finest jazz recordings.
Track Listing: I Mean You; Tales From the Unexpected; Pensive Fragments; My Funny Valentine; Fellini's Waltz; Subconscious Lee; Unless They Love You; La Dolce Vita.
Personnel: Enrico Pieranunzi: piano: Marc Johnson: bass; Paul Motian: drums.
Record Label: Cam Jazz
Style: Modern Jazz