Pianist Enrico Pieranunzi
's latest offering, New Spring Live At The Village Vanguard
ties together, in different ways, two previous CAM Jazz releases. The most recent is the studio album Proximity
featuring saxophonist Donny McCaslin
(who also plays in the live album) in a bass-less quartet. The earlier album is Live At The Village Vanguard
with drummer Paul Motian
and bassist Marc Johnson
, and is one of Motian's last recordings before his death.
Thus, New Spring
, recorded over two nights in April, 2015 (in the 80th anniversary year of the club), closes a circle for Pieranunzi, who is the only Italian to have played three times as a leader at the Vanguard, while he continues to explore new vistas with American jazz musicians.
Needless to say, there is always something special about a well-recorded live jazz album, and this album most definitely has that exciting sense of participating in the in-the-moment creation of fantastic music, as audience applause can be heard after solos and the end of a tune.
These tunes are mostly originals by Pieranunzi, with one by bassist Scott Colley
and one standard, "I Hear A Rhapsody" (see this version
by John Coltrane
on Lush Life
(Prestige, 1961)), which is given a marvelously unorthodox treatment.
Pieranunzi's musical world embraces American jazz that is deeply colored by the lushness of Italian Romanticism along with tonalities and voicings of classical Impressionist composers channeled through his embrace of Bill Evans
. Each track has a grand architectural feel with a good dose of drama added, while the structure of his tunes lend themselves to the extended treatment that fits naturally with the group.
Pieranunzi obviously likes McCaslin's tone, which is slightly on the acidic side and acts as a contrast to Pieranunzi's lushness. Within the structure of the tune, McCaslin plays with freedom and drive, which is supported and enhanced by Clarence Penn
's dynamic drumming and Colley's pulsing, melodic base, but also by Pieranunzi always interesting accompaniment.
What is particularly interesting is that while this music is solidly in the mainstream, it sounds very fresh, and not a little experimental somehow. The quartet is extremely tight, playing as a unit, while each individual's part is clear and distinct, and yet the feel of taking chances is very strong. New Spring
rises above any stylistic labels, becoming "pure" jazz that is distinctly Pieranunzi and completely engrossing.