Enrico Pieranunzi has been a major presence on the Italian jazz scene since the early 1970s, but has only recently begun to attract attention outside of Europe. In 2003, exceptional albums by Pieranunzi began to appear on CamJazz, the only Italian label with significant distribution in the United States. Among their revelations was that Pieranunzi is a very special ballad player.
His new album is one unified, sustained elegiac meditation. Unlike most ballad albums, it contains only two standards. “These Foolish Things” and “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” are comprehensive, unsentimental, and sublime. Seven of the other tracks are Pieranunzi originals. They include some stunning pieces of melodic poetry like “The Heart of a Child” and “Night After Night.” There is also a deeply felt memory by Stefania Tallini called “When All Was Chet.” (Pieranunzi has said that his music was changed forever by playing with Chet Baker.)
Bill Evans’ last bass player, Marc Johnson, takes haunting solos on Ballads. (Drummer Joey Baron completes the trio.) Pieranunzi shares with Evans a miraculous touch that shapes each note like a gentle, muscular sculptor. He is able, in his personal piano language, to enter upon that intimate emotional and intellectual world that Bill Evans first defined in musical terms. More than any living jazz pianist, Enrico Pieranunzi carries forward the Bill Evans legacy.