Friday, June 3, 2016

Enrico Pieranunzi - My Songbook

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“When Chet decided that we should play a particular piece it was because at that moment he needed exactly that piece to express himself. For him each piece was a living thing he would return to again and again and whose features, whether happy or sad, he rediscovered every time. He knew the lyrics to almost all of the titles we played, the stories they contained, and in his performances he revived those stories. … His ear was extraordinary, as was his ability to force the audience into listening to what his trumpet and his voice had to say.”
– Enrico Pieranunzi, Jazz pianist, composer, arranger

If you substitute “Enrico” for “Chet” in the above quotation and “piano” in place of “trumpet,” Enrico Pieranunzi could have been writing about himself, especially the part about “... for him each piece was a living thing ….”

That’s the way Enrico feels about his music as though “ … each piece was a living thing he would return to again and again and whose features, whether happy or sad, he rediscovered every time.”

Born in Rome on December 5, 1949, Enrico Pieranunzi’s development as a Jazz artist has much in common with that of his contemporary, Michel Petrucciani, the late French, Jazz pianist [1962-1999]

Both began studying piano at an early age: Petrucciani at the age of four and Pieranunzi at the age of five; each urged on by fathers who were guitarists.  

Both were classically trained for many years and, as a consequence, developed a style of playing that fused classical technique with Jazz.

Early in their careers, each fell heavily under the spell of, and worked in the harmonic tradition of pianist Bill Evans, and each developed into pianists of considerable technical ability who matured out from under the weight of Evans’ influence to find their own voice.

Both Enrico and Michel performed with a whole host of Jazz luminaries during the formative and later stages of their careers: Petrucciani with the likes of Clark Terry, Charles Lloyd, Lee Konitz, Wayne Shorter, Jim Hall, Dave Holland, Tony Williams, Eddy Louiss, Stephane Grappelli while Pieranunzi has performed with, among others, Frank Rosolino, Sal Nistico, Kenny Clarke, Johnny Griffin, Chet Baker, Joey Baron, Art Farmer, Jim Hall, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, Charlie Haden, Mads Vinding, Billy Higgins Chris Potter, and Kenny Wheeler.

Although both Pieranunzi and Petrucciani primarily favor the piano-bass-drums trio format, each has had their original compositions arranged for small group: Both Worlds, a sextet album that features Petrucciani’s works arranged by Bob Brookmeyer and Don’t Forget the Poet on which Pieranunzi arranged his own tunes for a quintet featuring Bert Joris on trumpet and flugelhorn and Stefano D’Anna on soprano and alto saxophones.

Pieranunzi issued his first LP in 1975. Since then, he has performed widely with his own group at European and American jazz festivals and in a variety of European Jazz clubs.

His recorded work falls basically into three categories:

[1] as accompanist with others such as Art Farmer, Chet Baker, & Phil Woods,
[2] as the leader of various piano-bass-drums-trio configurations and his own instrumental groups and in
[3] his solo piano recordings and his of recorded homages to Italian film composers.

Among pianists working in the harmonic tradition of the late Bill Evans, Enrico Pieranunzi has achieved a rare individuality, bringing an unrivaled sense of line and sheer sonority to the style.

Along with the advanced harmonic language, Pieranunzi belongs to what has been described as a native bel canto tradition that extends to classical pianists as brilliant as Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Maurizio Pollini and film composers like Nino Rota and Enrico Morricone, both of whom he has performed with on a number of well-known Italian movies.

Enrico’s teaching experience, in jazz and in classical music, is also noteworthy. He has served as a full professor of piano at the “Conservatorio di Musica” in Frosinone. His latest CD is dedicated to the music of Domenico Scarlatti, which not surprisingly combines jazz improvisation with classical music.

Thankfully, given the scope of his talent, his discography is immense which affords us the opportunity to sample his beautiful approach to Jazz in a variety of contexts.

Lately, however, Enrico has been expanding his repertoire to include more emphasis on the human voice and you can hear Pieranunzi new avenue for Jazz expression on ENRICO PIERANUNZI  My Songbook with Simona Severini [Via Veneto Jazz VVJ-106 which was released in January 2016 by Jando Music|Via Veneto Jazz.

The Jando Music|Via Veneto Jazz press release for My Songbook states that Enrico Pieranunzi’s music on it would “... surely surprise his longtime fans. The renowned Italian pianist has worked wonders on this engaging album and reveals himself as an ingenious songwriter with a deft technique and a restless imagination.

The album contains eleven of Pieranunzi’s own compositions, music and lyrics, that flow effortlessly thanks to acclaimed vocalist Simona Severini, who exudes a wonderful sensibility and interplays well with her expressive voice.  Pieranunzi and Severini started collaborating in 2012, on the occasion of the tribute record to Lucio Dalla and have continued working together since then.

The compositions are artfully arranged by Pieranunzi, in different formations ranging from duo to sextet, with an astonishing range of expression that shows off the quality of the musicians involved, among Italy’s best-known jazz players (Luca Bulgarelli, Nicola Angelucci and two guests Rosario Giuliani and Francesco Lento).

My Songbook is a fascinating listening experience made possible by Enrico Pieranunzi masterful blending of instrumental and vocal Jazz.

See what you think as the following video features Enrico as joined by  Simona Severini, voice, Francesco Lento, trumpet, Rosario Giuliani, alto sax, Luca Bulgarelli, bass and Nicola Angelucci, drums performing Pieranunzi’s original composition - Night Bird.

The CD is available via Forced Exposure via this link and as an Mp3 download or audio CD through

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