Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi drew strong accolades with last year's quintet FelliniJazz (CAM Jazz), though he's been busy making records since the '70s. He returns with the same veteran rhythm section, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian, for this trio Special Encounter. But the two discs are linked in more ways than one, because they were actually recorded during successive Rome studio sessions during March of 2003.
And so it's no surprise that they share many features in common: Piernanunzi's penchant for elegant, lyrical melodies; a full awareness, however rarely exploited, of the expansive possibilities of modern jazz; an intuitive shared spirit of exploration and discovery; and a general preference for understatement. But Special Encounter is a pared down recording, made prorportionately more spare by the absence of the horns, and it has a particularly pensive late night mood.
In addition to three standards, the disc features five Pieranunzi compositions (four of which are new on record) and three by Haden. The mostly ballad menu means that tempos tend to be slow, dynamics soft, and moods contemplative. Pinches of dissonance appear on the barely resolved "Secret Nights," a piece the pianist describes as related to the "kind of erratic, unanswered questioning" that sometimes takes place during dreams. His anthem-like "Earlier Sea" is the highlight of the recording, with a slightly faster pulse and a recurring feeling of sideways motion.
A similarly accelerated "Waltz for Ruth" finds Haden mostly guarding the pulse and allowing Motian to open up with light color and accent on the drums, while Pieranunzi sways and lilts through the memorable melody. Haden's solo has a natural, unforced, organic feel. This take presents an interesting contrast to the version that opens Haden's duet collaboration with Pat Metheny, Beyond the Missouri Sky (Verve, 1997).
This kind of softness and delicacy demands a rare sort of maturity, restraint, and wisdomqualities present in abundance among these three veteran players. Trio jazz doesn't get much better than this.
Personnel: Enrico Pieranunzi: piano; Charlie Haden: bass; Paul Motian: drums.