The much-discussed “globalization” of jazz is not always apparent down here on the ground. Take Italy, for instance. It boasts arguably the strongest jazz scene outside the United States, yet most American jazz fans would be challenged to name three Italian jazz musicians. This essay, if it achieves nothing else, will enable them to name four: Enrico Pieranunzi, Stefano Bollani, Riccardo Arrighini and Danilo Rea. If any one of these men lived in New York, he would be the next big thing on jazz piano.
Enrico Pieranunzi is the oldest of the group at 57. Like all of these players, he was schooled in classical piano from early childhood. Also like the others, his discovery of jazz as a teenager led to a piano style in which jazz and classical languages are unconsciously and organically interwoven. “I love Bach like I love Bill Evans. I love Mozart like I love Paul Bley. For me, piano music is piano music,” says Pieranunzi. He is largely self-taught in improvisation, and speaks of learning to “decode” jazz by studying Erroll Garner records. His single most important influence was Chet Baker, with whom he played frequently in the ’80s.