With New Visions, Enrico Pieranunzi demonstrates that at the age of 69 he is at the peak of his career. This recording bears witness to his greatness as a musician, and also how open he is in his musical approach. Chances are taken. It is a delight to hear this trio as it sets the standard for how jazz can be played, here and now.
Pieranunzi is an exceptional pianist, whether he’s playing solo, duo or trio. Melodically, harmonically, and not least of all rhythmically, he is “out of this world”. He has something you simply don’t hear with other musicians. Part of the explanation is likely due to a unique combination of influences, from his deep roots in classical and Italian music to his collaboration with iconic film composer Ennio Morricone and jazz giants like Chet Baker and Art Farmer. The rest – and most importantly – is due to Enrico himself.
Yet, Enrico Pieranunzi is totally his own man. He knows what he’s looking for, and for that reason alone one must be cautious in suggesting with whom he should play. So when in the winter of 2017 I asked Enrico if he would like to play in a trio with Thomas and American drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., it didn’t come as a complete surprise when he said “no, thanks”. Still, I couldn’t help asking about Ulysses one more time because I had the feeling he was precisely the drummer whose playing would inspire both Enrico and Thomas. I was convinced that Ulysses would be a good counterpart, and that the match-up had to be tried out.
Ulysses in fact belongs to a great new generation of drummers who play on a level of energy and technical proficiency rarely found outside the United States and which isn’t always compatible with European musical norms. But this doesn’t apply to Ulysses Owens, Jr., whose incredible sensitivity and attentiveness allow him to fit into the European context. He is one of the warmest, most smiling individuals I’ve ever met. At the same time, beneath his affable exterior lurks the classic drive and strength of an American drummer – an essential cultural ingredient that jazz cannot do without.