Profound Pianistic Presentations: Jazz Heaven DVDs from Jean-Michel Pilc and Enrico Pieranunzi

Dan Bilawsky BY

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There's more to music than the simple absorption and understanding of notes, rhythm, melody, and harmony; there's more to jazz than what naturally meets the eyes and ears; and, most daunting of all, there's more to learn than we can ever possibly imagine. But fear not, for there are resources out there to help aspiring musicians in their quest for a deeper understanding of music.

Jazz Heaven has been tapping into some of the finest jazz player-educators out there, recording and sharing their wisdom for all to hear and see. In just a few short years, this company has released videos from saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, piano guru Kenny Werner, drummer Ralph Peterson, and numerous others. These lengthy video classes are each unique, but they're tied to a common goal: To assist musicians in their journey toward betterment. With that goal in mind, Jazz Heaven ushered in 2015 with the release of these two piano-centric videos.

Jean-Michael Pilc
Piano Playing: Transcending The Instrument
Jazz Heaven

Pilc's first Jazz Heaven video—True Improvisation (Jazz Heaven, 2011)—was a universal tool that looked beyond his instrument. On his second Jazz Heaven release, the pianist telescopes his presentation and thinking. Piano Playing: Transcending The Instrument still speaks to the need for broad listening skills, understanding, and vision, as Pilc relates the piano to a variety of things, shares universal truths, and touches on the need to take on the role of other instruments. But make no mistake about it: This is a video geared specifically toward pianists.

Pilc links the ideas he presents here to his other video, but he quickly moves past it. He discusses important but oft-overlooked topics (i.e. economy in playing, musical consistency, etc.), shares creative ways to tackle and dissect scales and Hanon exercises, emphasizes the idea of improvising as on-the-spot creation rather than blowing, and references everybody from Martial Solal to Franz Schubert to Art Tatum to Glenn Gould to make his points.

Along the way, Pilc zones in on the importance of classical musical and gives helpful hints on how to improve and expand as a player (i.e. different fingerings, dynamic independence between hands, slow play, etc.). But he's quick to point out that technique is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. While there's much to absorb here for any player, intermediate-to-advanced pianists will better appreciate the subtleties and ideas that Pilc shares through his words and his playing. In addition to the one-hundred-and-forty-five minute masterclass, the DVD contains a revealing sixty-five minute interview with Pilc, conducted by pianist Dan Tepfer.

Enrico Pieranunzi
Jazz Piano: A Melodic Approach
Jazz Heaven

Countless jazz fans have admired the melodic beauty in Enrico Pieranunzi's music over the years, taking in his work with the greats—trumpeter Chet Baker, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Paul Motian, to name just three—and checking out his dates for labels like Soul Note, Challenge, and CAM Jazz. Now, Pieranunzi fans can peel back the layers of his mind a bit, as the master pianist shares some of his ideas and insights on this DVD. At eighty minutes long, this proves to be on the shorter side for a Jazz Heaven masterclass, but it's not lacking in material.

Over the course of this video, Pieranunzi tackles arpeggiated ideas, gets into the idea of note repetition, talks reharmonization, and helps the mind overcome rigid musical dogma that's been pounded into people for generations—his any note-fits-with-any-chord display and his vice versa explanation. He discusses left hand voicings, visits the blues, gets into enclosures, and uses scales and sequences as fodder for improvising. And through it all, Pieranunzi emphasizes and expands on the idea of jazz-as-language, explaining his understanding of the music's syntax and grammar. Jazz Heaven standards—the hour-long interview and PDFs—add value to the package, allowing the at-home-student to dig deeper into Pieranunzi and the ideas he presents.

Personnel and Production Notes

Piano Playing: Transcending The Instrument

Personnel: Jean-Michel Pilc: piano

Production Notes: Director/Producer: Falk Willis; Cinematographer: Greg Harriott; Camera Operator: Mike Doyle; Video Editors: Nate Stephens, Lauren Lench; Audio Engineer: Dan Stringer; Audio Mix/Master: Graham Stone; Interviewer: Dan Tepfer; Still Photography: Mike Doyle; Creative Advisor: Soren Fuhrer.

Jazz Piano: A Melodic Approach

Personnel: Enrico Pieranunzi: piano.

Production Notes: Director/Producer/Interviewer: Falk Willis; Cinematographer: Mike Doyle; Camera Operator: Greg Harriott; Video Editors: Nate Stephens, Lauren Lench; Audio Engineer: Dan Stringer; Audio Mix/Master: Graham Stone; Still Photography: Mike Doyle; Transcriptions: Dan Whieldon; Creative Advisors: Dan Whieldon, Soren Fuhrer.

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