2015 release Enrico Pieranunzi is the senior statesman of mainstream jazz piano in Italy. His recording career goes back to 1975, with more than forty albums on such labels as Soul Note, Enja, Egea and currently CAM Jazz. His music is romantic, lyrical mainstream using lush arrangements and harmonies. The current group could be termed his "American" quartet, with saxophonist Donny McCaslin (on tenor and soprano saxophones), stylistically wide-ranging trumpeter Ralph Alessi (on trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn) and bassist Matt Penman bringing Pieranunzi's compositions to life.
The drummer-less quartet's integration is remarkable as Pieranunzi shifts back and forth between harmonic/rhythmic support and soloing. Alessi and McCaslin both pay close attention to what is going on and play within the sound and atmosphere established by Pieranunzi and Penman. As an aside, Alessi's flugelhorn and McCaslin's soprano sax sound very similar at times, further integrating the players together. Penman's role is very important since he supports both the harmony and rhythm.
The overall feel of Proximity could be described as hard-edged Italianate romanticism with varying amounts of lushness, melancholy and intellect on each track. Pieranunzi's compositions are immediately accessible, with many beautiful melodies and harmonies, but this "mainstream" side of the music is balanced and deconstructed many times by subtle dissonances and structural feints which pique the ear. The music always has a distinct direction and forward motion which is created by the meshing of relatively clear harmony and rhythms. However, on top of this solid structure, the soloists (including Pieranunzi) exhibit a freedom which, however, feels completely natural and not forced —hence the descriptive phrase "seriously playful" or its reverse "playfully serious" feels extremely apropos. Pieranunzi knew what he was doing in picking McCaslin, Alessi and Penman. Each player's style, while different from each other, fits perfectly with Pieranunzi's overall style; they are clearly being themselves, yet just as clearly are working within the framework of the pianist.
Proximity is just about the perfect album— easy to listen to, but with such deep composition, arranging and playing that it will not leave the foreground. Multiple listens only enhance one's appreciation for the mastery of Pieranunzi.
Be The First To Review This Product!
Help other Birdland Records users shop smarter by writing reviews for products you have purchased.