CD review

Enrico Pieranunzi & Bert Joris – ‘Afterglow’

Enrico Pieranunzi & Bert Joris – Afterglow
(Challenge Records CR73460. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

Those chasing fast-city lights might imply the hard-grooving world of jazz-rock. But look beyond, into the deepening vermilion Afterglow, to find a quite different fusion in this intimate set from the acoustic duo of Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi and Belgian trumpeter/flugelhornist Bert Joris.

Their combined experience gleams. Pieranunzi has recorded more than 70 albums under his name and collaborating with artists including Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden and Chris Potter, while Joris’s ‘roll call’ is just as stellar, working alongside names such as Clark Terry, Jimmy Cobb, Woody Shaw, Hank Jones and Joshua Redman. But in contrast to those multifarious jazz ensemble and orchestral projects over the years, this one-to-one connection feels like an opportunity to eavesdrop on an amiable get-together of like-minded creative spirits.

Space is a crucial component of their interplay, confirmed by Pieranunzi’s own insight: “Sometimes, the moment you don’t play adds more significance to the things you do play”; and to paraphrase producer Jasper Somsen, his and audio engineer Floren Van Stichel’s role was simply to guard the entire process – being present was just enough.

Eleven compositions, both individually and jointly created, can glint with joy and mischief or floor the emotions with delicate wonder. Pieranunzi provides the majority, opening with homey Siren’s Lounge – and immediately, Joris’s soft melodies are found to flow alongside and weave in and out of his colleague’s full, assured keyboard range. Dominantly wistful title track Afterglow shares its grace, in mellow ‘Autumn Leaves’ vein, while the jauntiness of Joris’s Millie is satisfyingly reminiscent of Burt Bacharach (do – you – know – the – way…?), with Pieranunzi’s glee palpable. A joy to the pianist was the birth of his nephew, at the same time this recording was captured, and miniature Cradle Song to Mattia is his gently-rocking ‘song of life’ tribute.

Joris takes waltzing, folksong-like Anne April Sang into bluesy territory, including a jouncy dance episode, before the duo embarks on shadowier, exploratory Freelude. You might hear Thelonius or playground chants in Five Plus Five as pianist and trumpeter tease and charm (knowing nods and winks easily imagined), and there’s even a point where Joris’s phrasing summons thoughts of a specific Freddie Hubbard number (from ‘Super Blue’). These livelier pieces radiate artistic affection, What’s What particularly impertinent as Pieranunzi’s invention rolls out across the keys; and Not Found, too, teems with competitive, nose-snubbing cheek.

But it’s mostly the tender moments that find their way to the heart, as in Joris’s How Could We Forget, where the spatial eloquence of his flugel feels respectful to the memory it suggests, and also in closing sundown tune The Real You which is imbued with sincerity and gratitude.

Indeed, humanity and empathy shine through in this fine recording – a privilege to closely listen in on the craft of Enrico Pieranunzi and Bert Joris.

Afterglow is released on Challenge Records .

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