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Enrico Pieranunzi: Live In Paris

Chris May By

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Gorgeously lyrical but unpredictable and open to free jazz, Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi always delights. His recordings, which are now frequent going on prolific, move the scenery around so that he rarely plays in the same context twice running. Highlights from the last year or so have ranged from the spare and spacey explorations of Doorways (with Paul Motian and Chris Potter) through the rhapsodic accessibility of Play Morricone (with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron).

Live In Paris, a double-CD set recorded at Le Duc Des Lombards club over three nights in October 2001, sits somewhere between those two albums: it's more conventionally melodic than Doorways, but further off-the-book and impressionistic than Play Morricone. The album reunites Pieranunzi with bassist/producer Hein Van De Geyn and drummer Andre Ceccarelli, incisive accompanists and quirkily inventive soloists, with whom he recorded Seaward in 1994.

Most of the tunes are standards, but whereas Pieranunzi stayed close to the original scores on Play Morricone, typically embellishing the themes rather than improvising on their changes, here he takes a more elliptical approach, alluding only briefly to the melodies before taking off into the unknown. Coleman Hawkins famously never directly stated the theme on his signature 1939 reading of "Body And Soul." And Pieranunzi, while he references fragments of the top line (probably less familiar to jazz fans today than it was in Hawkins' time), himself only gives it the briefest of nods.

The trio approaches "Someday My Prince Will Come," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "I Fall In Love Too Easily," "Autumn Leaves" and "But Not For Me" from similarly oblique angles: they're flight paths to adventure, rather than gentle cruises around the Great American Songbook. "But Not For Me" in particular is outstanding. The group storm out at a furious pace, and Pieranunzi radically reshapes the theme with dissonant upper keyboard note clusters, which ring out like cracked bells over Ceccarelli's explosive drums. It's exhilarating, and at just over five minutes, a small masterpiece.

The most exquisite magic, however, comes on a thirty-minute/three-track sequence towards the end of the second disc, starting with a balletically graceful reinvention of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," which moves between 3/4 and 4/4, dancing nimbly and prettily en pointe all the time. That's followed by Pieranunzi's Satie-esque "One Lone Star," all filigreed single-note piano lines suspended over treble-end arco bass and dreamy brushwork, and another fine original, "Una Piccola Chiave Dorata," slightly more expansive but still essentially miniaturised and intimate. A muscular "Autumn Leaves" closes things out.

Lovely, fresh and thoughtful music, occasionally erupting into passionate ferocity, and full of unexpected twists and turns throughout its journey.


Track Listing: CD1: Introduction; Ouverthree; Body And Soul; I Hear A Rhapsody; Footprints; I Fall In Love Too Easily; But Not For Me; Hindsight. CD2: Someday My Prince Will Come; What Is This Thing Called Love; Jitterbug Waltz; One Lone Star; Una Piccola Chiave Dorata; Autumn Leaves.

Personnel: Enrico Pieranunzi: piano; Hein Van De Geyn: bass; Andre Ceccarelli: drums.

Title: Live In Paris | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Challenge Records


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