The strengths of Pieranunzi’s impressive talent came together when he played a series of concerts during his 2004 tour of Japan. Serendipity played a part in the formation of the group when the other two musicians who toured with him, Marc Johnson (Bill Evans’ last bassist,) and Joey Baron first performed with Pieranunzi. Stranded in Rome in 1984, Pieranunzi invited them to play at the Music Inn there. Magic happened. The three of them found instant musical understanding of the others’ impulses as they emerged through music. The result has been, lately, five CamJazz albums, establishing the group as one of the premier jazz piano trios recording today. More listeners should be aware of it.
Now, with the release of Live in Japan, perhaps more listeners will be aware of it. This is a superb two-disk album that covers Pieranunzi’s ever-changing improvisational perspectives, his sure sense of touch, his instantaneous response to others’ ideas, his reflections on work with Morricone, and the exchange of energy between audience and artist.
The album’s performances are uniformly excellent, though they were recorded in three concert halls in Tokyo and Yokohama. Morricone’s "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" serves as an example of Pieranunzi’s ability to develop layer upon layer of infectious complexity. Its resulting intensity of feeling grows from its relatively uncomplicated, though gorgeous, three-four theme. Just as one expects the performance to remain straightforward and unembellished from the assumptions established by the first few choruses, Pieranunzi raises the bar as he elevates the song into a swirling, sparkling movement, the natural result of the initial groundwork and surprisingly accelerated tempo toward the end of the piece. Pieranunzi’s instantaneous telepathy with Johnson and Baron comes through loud and clear, particularly when Johnson takes one of his melodically based solos.
More delights await. "Tokyo Reflections" is Pieranunzi’s solo abstract impression of the city where he performed, as he composes on the spot meandering bass-clef lines that evolve into the moody dissonance of unpredictably shifting chords. In contrast, Pieranunzi’s "Mio Caro Dottor Gräsler," built upon a repeated two-note identifying chord, showcases his fine sense of touch as he leads Johnson and Baron with fading dynamics that invite closer listener before the inimitable camaraderie of this group comes through in its middle section. "Improleaves," an improvisational tour de force based upon the changes on "Autumn Leaves," shares compositions credit among all three musicians for they equally contribute to its development first with Baron’s finely textured drum solo, then with Pieranunzi’s upper-register mysteriousness faintly recalling the song’s theme, and then with Johnson’s exuberantly free solo. The ability of the trio’s members to respond in real time to the other’s just-at-that-moment occurring thoughts and to raise the performance to a memorably exciting level shows just how special it is.
Those who were fortunate enough to hear the Enrico Pieranunzi Trio live in Japan now are sharing the experiences with the rest of the jazz listening world who no doubt will be as entertained by this exceptional music just as unforgettably as they were.