Enrico Pieranunzi: returns and changes


Quartet by Enrico PieranunziTwo important recordings by the pianist Enrico Pieranunzi took shape in the second half of the seventies: “From Always to Now” and “Soft Journey”. We are in the midst of a generational change within Italian jazz, dictated, particularly in Rome, by a renewed artistic and cultural ferment. In this regard it is good to highlight an aspect that informs the first part of Enrico Pieranunzi's career: although he is only twenty-eight he is already considered an established jazz player. This is mainly due to the fact that in previous years he had shared the stage of the Music Inn with numerous internationally renowned jazz musicians passing through Rome, hired by Pepito Pignatelli to play in his famous jazz club. Among these are Sal Nistico, Kenny Clarke, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin. Another aspect that distinguishes Enrico Pieranunzi from the vast majority of Italian jazz musicians of the time is certainly the fact that he graduated in classical piano. In the eyes of the young colleagues present at his concerts, that serious-looking pianist complete with glasses and mustache must have immediately seemed like the missing figure in Italy of the jazz musician capable of opening a "third way" in which to combine the classical background with Afro-American improvisation.

On the other hand, some aspects of the new Italian jazz scene denounce the virgin state of a musical field seeking affirmation outside the enclave of aficionados of the first hour: for example the limited availability of drummers and double bass players in the Roman square. In light of this, it is easy to understand why the Roman pianist does not miss the opportunity to include a young but already talented drummer in his trio, Roberto Gatto, noticed during one of the many concerts at the Folkstudio, a meeting place for the alternative scene in Trastevere. The other member of Pieranunzi's group is the double bass player Bruno Tommaso: an eclectic musician with experience as an instrumentalist and composer in free jazz, contemporary, medieval and Renaissance music projects, as well as a teacher in the newly founded Scuola Popolare di Musica in Testaccio . In 1977 he joined the trio Maurizio Giammarco: fresh from his experience at the end of the Sixties with the jazz-rock group "Blue Morning", born in the Montesacro district of Rome, the saxophonist collaborates with various musicians of experimental music and free jazz, such as the eclectic and exuberant Neapolitan saxophonist who moved in Rome, Mario Schiano, and then founded the quintet in his name with Giancarlo Maurino, Danilo Rea, Enzo Pietropaoli and Roberto Gatto himself.

“From Always to Now” was recorded, with a trio and a quartet, in July 1978 at the Emmequattro studios in Rome of producer Bruno Nicolai's Edi-Pan label. The recording work has the merit, among other things, of contributing to a renewed public and critical interest in hard-bop, deprived during the seventies of the due visibility in favor of the various avant-garde currents present in the great bed of the European free jazz. The opening track of the album "Night Bird" immediately gives the measure of the Roman pianist's ability to personalize the harmonic and melodic cornerstones of bop with invective, energy and extraordinary piano technique. In fact, the piece, composed by the pianist, will become a true jazz standard over the years, performed by numerous jazz musicians around the world.

A year later Enrico Pieranunzi performed with the trio formed by Riccardo Del Fra and Roberto Gatto as part of the Macerata Jazz Festival together with an exceptional guest, the American trumpeter Chet Baker. A few months later the two met again at the Emmequatrro Studios to record the album "Soft Journey" in two sessions, between December 1979 and January 1980. This recording reveals a turning point in the Roman pianist's techno-compositional style, dictated by the search for essentiality in contrast to the torrential hard-bop approach expressed up to that moment: each note speaks, contains a reflection, tells of a moment or a elusive emotion inspired by the poetically introspective universe of the American trumpeter and vocalist sitting next to him, in the studio or on stage. The recording also documents Chet Baker's first meeting in the recording studio with young musicians from the Roman scene: in addition to Pieranunzi, Riccardo Del Fra on double bass, Roberto Gatto on drums and Maurizio Giammarco on tenor saxophone.

Paolo Marra

Photo by Roberto Masotti


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