"Some people call it 'Mediterranean music,' but it's very difficult to describe in words," says pianist Enrico Pieranunzi of his vast and varied repertoire. "It is maybe a four-way blend of classical, jazz improvisation, folk, and atmospheric. There are several ingredients. Now, we call it the global village, you know? And jazz is becoming more global and wider and wider. It implies a lot of realities at the same time. It's not like jazz back in the '60s, where you say Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis and it's clear; now, in a jazz festival, you can find so many different musicians. It's unbelievable."
Popular in Italy and Europe for his cool, coastal jazz stylings, Pieranunzi performs an unprecedented three-part series of shows this week, in solo, duo, and trio settings — the latter with the combination of modern jazz bass legend John Patitucci and Pieranunzi's longtime drummer Joey Barron.
"I play in a solo setting quite often in Italy and Europe," says the pianist, speaking from home in Rome. "John Patitucci is replacing Marc Johnson for the performance on Thursday. He's a great player and we're very happy to meet. We've been talking about it for a long time. My drummer, Joey Barron, is like a brother — we've been playing together for 23 years."
For his solo performance, Pieranunzi plans to alternate between "open forms and melodic stuff." His recent works reflect his classical background along with his folk and jazz influences — a peppery blend of be-bop, swing, Italian dance music, and Romantic-era concert music.
"Piano can be an orchestra, it can be a percussion instrument, it can be very melodic, and it can be a fantastic toy in a sense," says Pieranunzi, who started playing the instrument at the age of six. "You can approach it in so many different ways. My relationship with it is very strong. It's a significant part of my life. I use it to sing, compose, arrange, to have fun ... it's very versatile."
Pieranunzi's latest work blends different styles and cultures. His piano chops are as terrific and his key work as expressive as any modern jazz great.
"Jazz —the music has an unbelievable amount of vitality," he says. "I remember when I first started performing, some people said, 'Oh, jazz is about to die,' and so forth. But every year, it's still here and progressing. It's very vital."
ENRICO PIERANUNZI SOLO • Spoleto Festival USA's Wachovia Jazz Series • $30 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 30, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. • Recital Hall, Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100
ENRICO PIERANUNZI DUO • Spoleto Festival USA's Wachovia Jazz Series • $30 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 31, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. • Recital Hall, Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100
ENRICO PIERANUNZI TRIO • Spoleto Festival USA's Wachovia Jazz Series • $25-$40 • (1 hour 30 min.) • June 2 at 9 p.m. • The Cistern, 66 George St. • 579-3100