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Enrico Pieranunzi, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian: Special Encounter

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Liner note author Ira Gitler writes that this was originally conceived as a ballad session. In its slightly more varied final form, Special Encounter maintains that twilight mood. Italian pianist Pieranunzi splits song credits with his bassist, Charlie Haden, and tosses in a few standards for good measure. With the exception of a briskly paced run through Haden’s “Waltz for Ruth,” which sticks out a bit, Pieranunzi upholds a satisfyingly gentle pace, preferring to argue with phrasing and pith.

Paul Motian completes the trio. His presence along with Haden’s would be enough to make nearly any pianist sigh-hence the title. Nevertheless, Pieranunzi has played with this rhythm section before and what they offer doesn’t always rise to the level of special. When it does, the pianist is largely responsible. He keeps his melodies free of extraneous notes and edges them with sly asides. He also varies his accompaniment on every tune, which makes this performance especially listenable. Pieranunzi’s best showings, however, are artful conglomerations of nice touches, from the gentle rise and fall of odd intervals on his own “Secret Nights” to the single staccato note placed in the center of a flowing melodic line on “Why Did I Choose You?”