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Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Live in Japan

The ripe interplay that Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi has cultivated with the American bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron has been developing for a long time. The trio recorded together as early as 1984’s New Land (their most recent studio reunion was last year’s Ballads); this inspired recital was culled from 2004 visits to Tokyo and Yokohama. Judging from the sensitivity and one-mind interaction displayed throughout both CDs, Pieranunzi’s limited North American profile is depriving U.S. audiences of a world-class ensemble.

The pianist’s fondness for the work of Ennio Morricone, richly displayed on this trio’s two-volume Play Morricone, surfaces on four of the film composer’s pieces. (Morricone, in fact, is the only outside source the group draws on here.) Such deeply melodic tunes as “Musashi” and “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso” share a similar lyrical bent with Pieranunzi originals, including “How Can You Not?” and “When I Think of You.” These relatively compact performances demonstrate the pianist’s clarity of thought and gracious touch, as well as Johnson and Baron’s astute accompaniment and on-point solos.

But the heart of the set is three group improvisations, each over 10 minutes. “Impronippo” hints at “I Hear a Rhapsody,” “All the Things You Are” and other less recognizable points between, yet emerges as an original organic improvisation. “Improvleaves” reveals its source more flagrantly; “Autumn Leaves” keeps peeking through the trio’s weave. The concluding “Improminor” begins with a Pieranunzi introduction that exhibits his superior skills as a solo performer. He is then joined by his immensely focused compatriots for a controlled yet riveting turn that brings to mind the Keith Jarrett Trio at its most disciplined.

Originally Published