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Enrico Pieranunzi: Untold Story

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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Enrico Pieranunzi: Untold Story By my count, pianist Enrico Pieranunzi has, in the last couple of years, released no fewer than six records to critical acclaim ranging from ebullient to ecstatic: FelliniJazz (CamJazz, 2004), Les Amants (Egea, 2004), Special Encounter (CamJazz, 2005), Play Morricone (CamJazz, 2005), Live in Paris (Challenge, 2006), and Ballads (CamJazz, 2006). He even found the time to write a lovely book about his hero Bill Evans. Maybe some listeners find even this prodigious productivity to be insufficient. For their benefit, then, Egea is now issuing a series of previously unreleased sessions from the 1990s, including this date recorded in Paris in February 1993.

There is no sense that Egea is scraping the bottom of the barrel: Untold Story is a remarkably strong record in which newer listeners and longtime fans alike will delight. Pieranunzi finds himself in the company of his frequent collaborators bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Paul Motian (whose pair of pretty compositions sit very nicely alongside the leader's).

Pieranunzi here sketches a continuum between the rather free "Improlude" and "Episode" at one end and the rapturous "For Your Peace" at the other. This terrain differs little from Pieranunzi's other records, but listeners may nevertheless be surprised to find how much time he spends at the freer end of the spectrum. The group-composed "Improlude is an excellent example that manages to be lyrical and melodic, even as its very structure sounds spontaneous.

The lyrical, the lush, the melodic, of course, will not surprise, but they do not fail to delight, profoundly. And there are other elements to savor. One is the rhythmic intelligence of all three musicians. If Motian is a drummer who seems to be playing melody, then he is well-matched with a pianist whose attention to rhythmic detail never falters. Pieranunzi places notes with a microscopic precision, cascading around the main pulse of the performance; he can do it on the slower numbers, where he has more space, but he can do it on the faster numbers too, such as the easygoing but propulsive "Abacus." Johnson's solos, too (on "For Your Peace" and on John Lewis's "Django"), are as rhythmic as they are melodic.

The distinction between the larger jazz ensemble—with its reeds, brass, even electric guitars—and the piano trio is a bit like the relationship of fresco painting to calligraphy. The piano trio, like the calligrapher's art, is an exacting discipline, based on a narrower set of effects and a more limited palette. Even very good pianists can in such circumstances sound monochrome and the listener longs for a saxophone or a conga drum. In the hands of a master, however, the apparent constraints of the form dissolve like crystals in water. Untold Story is the work of a master, superbly accompanied.


Track Listing: Chantango; Abacus; Episode; For Your Peace; September Waltz; Mode VI; Improlude; Dream Book; Django.

Personnel: Enrico Pieranunzi: piano; Marc Johnson: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Year Released: 1993 | Record Label: Egea Records | Style: Modern Jazz


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