Tue May 8, 2018

Enrico Pieranunzi Quartet 'New Spring' (I/USA/ESP)

Enrico Pieranunzi: piano
Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone
Luca Bulgarelli: bass
Jorge Rossy: drums

Enrico Pieranunzi may have quietly accompanied the fragile trumpet romantic Chet Baker, but anyone who’s heard the great Italian pianist live knows how electrifying he can be when the brakes are off. New Spring, recorded live at New York’s Village Vanguard, catches that, and its temperature is raised to scalding point by an equally uninhibited Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist from David Bowie’s Blackstar band. Pieranunzi can echo Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, but the contemporary insights of McCaslin and drummer Clarence Penn reforge those methods as if they were new. The anthemic Tyner feel of Amsterdam Avenue is sharpened by McCaslin’s melancholy squeals and staccato figures, while the title track, with its swerving sax theme and contrastingly prancing countermelody, invites some of the venerable leader’s most youthfully muscular improv. McCaslin’s mix of eerily slurred intonation and explosive accents give the ballad episodes a caustic edge, and Pieranunzi veers between old-school swing embroidery and Hancockian drive on I Hear a Rhapsody. New Spring is an old-wine-in-new-bottles set that could hardly have been better named. (John Fordham, The Guardian)

A live performance took place at the Vanguard in New York one night in April 2015: Enrico Pieranunzi played in quartet with Donny McCaslin on sax, Scott Colley on double bass and Clarence Penn on drums. In the sold-out club, the lights were dimmed, the audience stopped talking and, that night in New York, jazz started to flow out from the only Italian artist who has played as a leader three times on that legendary stage. The concert was recorded and released on CAM JAZZ. The music Pieranunzi and his quartet deliver here is all portrayed in the CD title, “New Spring”: renewal, vital energy, promises that come true, in the city that has always been the cradle, school and springboard for, but also and again the point of arrival of jazz, the city whose breath is perceived, between tracks, in the clapping hands of the audience at the Vanguard. This is a modern, internationally-oriented jazz, entirely featuring original tracks, except for the standard “I Hear A Rhapsody”, and resulting from the interplay among four real jazz giants, who skillfully blend their forceful personalities into excellent music. The Vanguard is the shrine of American jazz and here, in the amazing harmonies and unexpected melodies of Pieranunzi’s superb, creative piano, you can feel it throbbing. You can almost see Scott Colley filling that small historic stage with his double bass, grinding out rhythm and weaving passionate, moving melodies. You can picture the audience captivated by the scratchy voice of Donny McCaslin’s saxophone that soars with soft phrases and mingles with Clarence Penn’s rich, full drumming, while Lorraine Gordon, the legendary owner of the Vanguard, seated in a corner of her reign, attentively listens to each note. “New Spring” is ever-evolving music with an immediate impact on the listeners’ emotions. It is a small great journey through New York, Italian, American and European jazz: a picture, a photograph, a moment, a film clip, a night to be enjoyed and breathed wherever you like that then makes you really want to pick up and go to the place where jazz is, maybe precisely in spring, hoping for another beguiling April in New York. (DownBeat Magazine)