Lost in Music
Enrico Pieranunzi takes his audience on a magnificent journey … and the trip’s only begun

T. Ballard Lesemann

In a bold and expressive solo performance — the first of several during this week’s Wachovia Jazz Series — jazz/classical pianist Enrico Pieranunzi led an enraptured audience through a terrific program on Wednesday evening at the Recital Hall in the Simons Center.
While Pieranunzi’s playing style was intense, the pianist himself seemed completely at ease, strolling on stage in a white dress shirt and black trousers, a deep grin on his face, bowing graciously to the applause. “I’ve only been in Charleston for a few moments,” he said with clear pronunciation after his opening number. “In Rome, I actually live on a street called Villa Spoleto, so I already feel at home somehow.”
Opening with an original piece titled “Love Whispers,” Pieranunzi established the mood right away with a beautiful, fast-moving series of melodies and left-handed chords that rolled up and down, back and forth. Dynamic and fluid, it resembled a jazzed-up piano concerto — complexly arranged with a few unexpected blue notes and jazzy licks thrown in.
In a conversation with City Paper a week before the start of this year’s Wachovia Jazz Series, Pieranunzi described his program as “a four-way blend of classical, jazz improvisation, folk, and atmospheric.” He was right on the money.
“Detras Del Tuyo Se Va,” which Pieranunzi said roughly translated into “backwards, but much more forward,” flew at an even more rapid pace, with wildly syncopated rhythm patterns and accents, rumbling chord work, and crisp, high-note embellishments.
The sadder “Tras Noche” and the echoing “Islas” moved at a slower pace with melodies meandering lazily, slowly building up and dissipating. In louder moments, it seemed as if the pianist was striking the keys more like drummer.
Other highlights included an almost unrecognizable rendition of the Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers standard “My Funny Valentine,” a closing “free improvisation” number full of rapid-fire runs and full-fisted momentum, and a Mediterranean-flavored original piece titled “Persona” as the encore
Pieranunzi performs in a duo setting at the Recital Hall on Thurs. May 31 with acclaimed jazz bassist John Patitucci. The pair join Pieranunzi’s longtime drummer Joey Baron for a full-band performance at the Cistern on Sat. June 2. These sets might just be remembered as some the most intense of this year’s Wachovia Jazz Series.

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

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