Enrico Pieranunzi Trio and Orchestra: Blues & Bach: The Music of John Lewis – review

In its best moments, the Italian pianist’s tribute to the American classical-jazz pioneer is breathtaking

In the 1950s, an American band, the Modern Jazz Quartet, was the first to gain wide popular success by mixing the idioms of jazz and classical music. Pianist and composer John Lewis (1920-2001) was the leading spirit behind its delicate sound, attractive tunes and natural swing. Today, Europe is the home of the jazz-classical amalgam, with Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi among its leading artists.

It was a good idea to record him revisiting some of Lewis’s best known pieces, such as Django, Concorde and Skating in Central Park. I’m not sure it was such a good idea for these eight tracks to include, alongside the piano-bass-drums jazz trio, an orchestra made up of a string quartet, plus double bass, and a wind quintet, all arranged and conducted by Michele Corcella. Pieranunzi is always a joy to listen to, but Lewis’s light-touch melodies do tend to get lost in the glory of it all. Nevertheless there are moments here when the affinity of interplay between orchestra and soloist is almost beyond belief. I can imagine them, unhampered by a ready-made programme, coming up with something really spectacular together.

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