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Enrico Pieranunzi / Marc Johnson / Joey Baron: Dream Dance

John Kelman By

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Focusing on all-original material, pianist Enrico Pieranunzi's Dream Dance proves that when there's the right chemistry, a group can retain it throughout the years, even if reconvening only occasionally. While not a regular working unit like Keith Jarrett's enduring Standards Trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Pieranunzi's trio with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron has been together almost as long. And while Jarrett continues to explore long-form interpretations of standards, Pieranunzi combines plenty of original music with the occasional standard and material from fellow Italians including Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota.

While its outing with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, As Never Before (Cam Jazz, 2008), was an intriguing yet still in context diversion from deep mining of the piano trio tradition on albums including the high water mark of Live in Japan (Cam Jazz, 2007), Dream Dance returns the group to its original trio format. It has never sounded more vivacious, with plenty of Pieranunzi's unmistakable European classicism on the oblique waltz, "No-nonsense," and no shortage of romanticism on the optimistic "Castle of solitude," featuring the pianist's most beautifully constructed solo of the set.

Despite Pieranunzi's unmistakable Europeanism, one of this trio's greatest strengths is its ability to straddle the line—or, perhaps more appropriately, break it down—between a long-held but no longer relevant delineation of American and European jazz approaches. "Peu de chose," another waltz, swings amiably, referencing the late Bill Evans but possessing a firmer touch and more extroverted approach, while the closing "Five plus five" swings harder with a fervent solo from Johnson that's another highlight of the set, along with a fiery trade-off between Pieranunzi and Baron that's positively thrilling. "End of diversions" spotlights Johnson and Baron's shared simpatico—surely a team as intuitive and innovative as Peacock and DeJohnette—as they wind their way towards ever greater freedom and the song's final reiterated theme.

Taken at a raised key, the title track from As Never Before becomes gentler without Wheeler's tart horn. This trio, which dedicated an entire album to Ballads (Cam Jazz, 2006), excels at slow, elegant tempos, and "As Never Before" finds it at its nuanced best. Johnson's lengthy solo is a graceful blend of visceral lyricism and subtle interaction with Baron and Pieranunzi.

"Pseudoscope" is a fiery piece with an idiosyncratic head that leads into another hard-swinging solo section for Pieranunzi that, with a cued set of changes at the end of each round combines form and freedom, accomplishing a great deal within its brief four-and-a-half minutes.

A demarcation between Pieranunzi's trio and Jarrett's is that Pieranunzi works, more often than not, in smaller chunks, with tunes rarely crossing the six-minute mark, in contrast with Jarrett, who rarely works under 10. By no means a comparative qualifier, it does define a difference in approach. Pieranunzi has yet to attain Jarrett's iconic status, but as the years pass he's becoming increasingly influential, with Dream Dance reaffirming the progressive significance of this exceptional trio.

Track Listing: End of diversions; No-nonsense; As never before; Castle of solitude; Peu de chose; Nippono ya-oke; Pseudoscope; Dream dance; Five plus five.

Personnel: Enrico Pieranunzi: piano; Marc Johnson: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

Title: Dream Dance | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: CAM Jazz


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