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Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: As Never Before

On earlier CamJazz albums like Live in Japan and Ballads and two revelatory recordings of Ennio Morricone film music, this group has established itself as one of the premier piano trios in jazz. Soulful Italian romanticism simply flows from Enrico Pieranunzi. It sounds like he only needs to open the tap. Bassist Marc Johnson is a deep rhythmic anchor and a soloist as poetic as Pieranunzi. Drummer Joey Baron kicks up so much unpredictable energy that this sensitive trio never sounds soft.

It is a dynamic balance that would be disrupted by most guests, but trumpeter Kenny Wheeler’s particular lyricism-free but unerringly graceful, melancholy but firm-sounds inevitable here.

“Soundings” is a gradual acceleration into dizzying densities. “Improheart” and “Impromind,” new additions to Pieranunzi’s ongoing totally improvised “Impro-” series, are cryptic, spare gestures. “Winter Moon” has a muted throb that could be Latin. The title track and “Many Moons Ago” and “Time’s Passage” are like flawless curves of melody that Pieranunzi found floating in the air. But these separate, varied pieces (all Pieranunzi originals) form a single fabric, a poignant, meditative suite. Pieranunzi and Wheeler share a musical worldview, but express it in contrasting instrumental voices. Wheeler is breath, in cries and sighs. Pieranunzi is touch, point to point, in intricate strands.

As Never Before is Enrico Pieranunzi’s 11th album as a leader or co-leader for CamJazz, and it is one of the strongest achievements within this important body of work.

Originally Published