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In his early career, Pieranunzi played with such masters as Chet Baker, Lee Konitz and Jim Hall. Now he’s a master in his own right – a spontaneous yet motivic improviser who knows how to draw on and deconstruct a melody in real time. In this 2010 recording from the historic Village Vanguard club in New York’s Greenwich Village, he’s partnered by Paul Motian – who sadly died the following year – on drums and Marc Johnson on bass. Pieranunzi’s great hero, Bill Evans, on whom he’s written a book, was closely associated with the Village Vanguard, and bassist and drummer both belonged to different incarnations of the Bill Evans Trio. So there’s a palpable sense of history here.

Not that it inhibits these players – the result is as good as piano trio jazz gets. The pianist’s originals express his romantic, lyrical aesthetic, though the live situation contributes to highly charged performances, most notably of Tales from the Unexpected. There’s one standard – My Funny Valentine – and two jazz standards from the bop era, Monk’s I Mean You and Konitz’s Subconscious- Lee, plus the theme from La Dolce Vita by Nino Rota.

Pieranunzi draws on Evans’s bop roots in Bud Powell and Lennie Tristano, which he seemed to turn away from in his later playing. The result is a wide stylistic range, often with a more muscular approach than is normally associated with Evans, and an Italian lyricism that generates a distinctive identity. Pieranunzi used to be a relatively unknown talent deserving wider recognition, but at the age of 63, he’s getting it.

ANDY HAMILTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing