Reviews Enrico Pieranunzi & Jasper Somsen

Retrospection: Two Jazz virtuosi at the Ede Concert Hall

Concert March 30, 2014: Enrico Pieranunzi & Jasper Somsen


Whether “Jazz virtuosi” is a correct Dutch word or not, it is a title well chosen for the two artists who performed at the Ede Concert Hall. One of these artists lives almost around the corner (the village of Ede is close to the little town of Wageningen, The Netherlands). The other artist is from Italy.


Enrico Pieranunzi & Jasper Somsen - Edesche Concertzaal March '14 


Having a mini-tour in The Netherlands, Enrico Pieranunzi and Jasper Somsen found time to perform at the Ede Concert Hall as well. After this late afternoon concert they had to leave quickly for another concert at the Jazz Festival Alkmaar. Clearly a very busy schedule, but in no way present during their concert whilst playing.


Pieranunzi and Somsen are musical companions since 2012 – provided there is an opportunity to do concerts, since their hometowns and thus countries are so far apart. Without this information in mind one would doubtlessly assume they are playing together on a daily basis. A matching twosome never heard before. Some moments it is even hard to distinguish which of them is playing the actual melody - the bass or the piano. Or if it is Somsen or Pieranunzi who improvises brilliantly. Just a little gesture and off they go. Virtuoso!


Their sound seems produced effortlessly. Touched by Pieranunzi’s hands the Bösendorfer grand piano turns into a golden vehicle. A brilliant sound, which proves this grand piano is perfectly suited for this style of music. Somsen communicates at the same musical level as Pieranunzi. His (slightly amplified) double bass was "embraced" in all registers, in both his astonishing solos and his strong accompaniments.


Most of the repertoire was written by Pieranunzi and Somsen: 'Blue Waltz', 'Je Ne Sais Quoi', 'Castle Of Solitude' and 'Beneath The Surface'. Besides that, they played a couple of jazz standards such as Jerome Kern’s 'Yesterdays' and 'Someday My Prince Will Come' by Frank Churchill. Although it was a 20 degrees centigrade outside, even the two “Autumn Songs” matched perfectly this afternoon. 


A very inspiring concert heard by a deeply concentrated audience. The audience sincerely regretted Somsen's announcment of the very last composition. The Ede Concert Hall proved to be very well-suited for Jazz music.  


- Johan van Markesteijn, March 31 2014


Nederlandstalige versie




Photo: Arkady Mitnik


Over a seventy albums, countless original compositions and numerous awards puts the Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi in a top ranking position in the major league of best musicians in the world. Staying in touch with both Jazz and Classical music is one his trademarks. Even over a sixty years of age he still thrusts forward.


Born in 1949 in Rome, the Italian capitol always remained Enrico Pieranunzi’s hometown. “In fact, it’s my headquarters” says Pieranunzi. “Although sometimes it’s merely a kind of hotel.”


Having 75%  of his concerts abroad, Pieranunzi travels a lot. Often he can be found in New York – he even considers moving to the Big Apple. Lately he’s often in The Netherlands as well. He recorded for the Dutch Challenge Records International label and since 2012 works frequently with the Dutch double bassist Jasper Somsen, with whom Pieranunzi will have a duo concert at The Ede Concert Hall.


Jasper Somsen and Enrico Pieranunzi met for the first time when the bassist was still a graduate student at the Utrecht Conservatorty. Many years later Somsen dedicated an album to Pieranunzi’s music. They met again and since then performed in duo and trio. “Jasper is an great musician. Thanks to him I’m often in The Netherlands.”


Classic and Jazz music in balance
Although Pieranunzi’s is having about seventy – eighty concerts a year, all over the world, he never gets tired being on the road. “This is because the story of my musical life is a little different than others. I was a teacher for more than twenty years at the conservatory (in Italy) and started travelling more and more when I was about a 50 years old. Besides that I love to play with good musicians, so this does not leave me a choice but to travel a lot.”


The Italian musician still does both Jazz concerts as Classical recitals. The moment he touched the piano, at the age of 5, he equaled and mastered both styles. “My father, a Jazz guitar player, bought me a piano. I had classical piano lessons, but always listened to Jazz music. That’s why I was always in touch with both genres.”


After his graduation at the conservatory, Pieranunzi mastered the “Jazz language” all by himself. In his twenties he equally performed both Jazz and Classical music on stage. Later he focused more and more on his Jazz career. In recent years he is doing both again. “Scarlatti, Bach, Haendel … for me it’s not a matter of competition. I love to keep both genres close to each other. In my opinion, the connecting link is interpretation. Although the preparation for a concert is different, at the end it’s a only matter of interpretation.”


Pieranunzi thinks his classical background is a major influence in his way of playing Jazz. “The technical and musical approach to the instrument, the touché … it’s all part of my Jazz playing. Composers like Debussy and Fauré are of great importance for my own Jazz compositions. Sometime I like to mix it up. For instance I start with Scarlatti or Bach and end up improvising.” 


Pieranunzi did not yet decide what he and Jasper Somsen will be playing at The Ede Concert Hall. “Most likely one of my own compositions and a couple of Jazz standards. I never make a set list.”


This freedom of choice and the fact that every concert is different, is exactly what motivates the pianist. “Music is like an endless ocean. It makes me want to be on the stage over and over again. It’s always a new experience. There are always new stories to tell. There is always a vast world of not yet known music to explore. That’s my personal goal, besides giving my very best on stage …”


March 4, 2014 - Editorial staff of the Ede Concert Hall


Nederlandstalige versie


March 30 - Ede (NL): Enrico Pieranunzi & Jasper Somsen
Edesche Concertzaal| Time: 15:00 - 17:00  | Information & Tickets

Enrico Pieranunzi New EU Trio_foto Jos L. KnaepenPhoto: Jos L. Knaepen


Jazz Brugge, October 4, 2012 – Enrico Pieranunzi’s New European Trio




The last concert of the first day at the Jazz Brugge Festival (Brugge, Belgium) was deprived of musical conceptions and shortcuts. The Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi and his new European trio did what they do best: playing jazz without fringes, with an unparalleled eloquence. Without ever lapsing in clichés the still inspired Pieranunzi focused entirely on his melodic approach. The seemingly spontaneous emerging melodies lingered on and on, endlessly and effortlessly. His refined toucher and sparkling rhythms made his fascinating music accessible for the listener.


Many of Pieranunzi’s colleagues have the tendency to stay put in their musical mannerisms, appearing to be “knitting” their melody lines. In the magical hands of Pieranunzi the music was a display of sheer beauty, proved by the dared filmic composition “Blue Waltz” and the ever mystic “Transitory Grace”.


His Dutch partners Pieter Bast (drums) and Jasper Somsen (double bass) where clearly an ideal match. With their ever shifting substructures they contributed a strong support and remained the pianist to stay focused. Bast found a perfect balance in rhythmic expression and swing, whilst Somsen orbited in freedom without being destabilizing. Somsen proved to be an outstanding soloist extending Pieranunzi’s melodic vigor (considering the slight physical disadvantages of playing a double bass).


Spite of the independence of the rhythm section the music maintained the classic Jazz trio format, similar to the trios of pianist Brad Mehldau. Above all the threesome’s feel for dynamics was now and then astonishing, in which they withdrew to almost nothing and re-emerged again, like being a perfectly directed show.


Since the concert was at such a high level, there were hardly any remarkable highlights. From “Strangest Consequences” to the up tempo  “My Funny Valentine”, the romantic all composed “Within the House of Night”, fast lingering compositions or the encore “Distance From Departure”, in every composition the New European Trio sparkled brightly. Although the audience was a bit smaller, due to the late night concert, the ovation was grateful, fitting the heartfelt concert.


October 5, 2012 – Koen van Meel,

Passie, gedrevenheid en braafheid


Enrico Pieranunzi Trio, woensdag 22 mei 2013, Paradox, Tilburg


Wat is het toch een voorrecht om in een intieme setting als het Tilburgse Paradox artiesten van wereldformaat te kunnen zien en meemaken. Zoals ook dit concert van pianist Enrico Pieranunzi in zijn Europese trio met drummer Pieter Bast en bassist Jasper Somsen. Pieranunzi, geroemd om zijn kleurrijke composities, vloeiende improvisaties en technische perfectie, geldt als een van de grootste jazzpianisten van de wereld, dus de verwachtingen waren hooggespannen.


Misschien kwam het daardoor dat de eerste set toch wat tegenviel. Algemene indruk: leuk bandje, mooie muziek, maar wel erg braaf! Maar de pianomeester had een duidelijke opbouw in petto en naarmate het concert vorderde werden de stukken interessanter en uitdagender. En dat zat hem voornamelijk in Pieranunzi's ingenieuze improvisaties, gebaseerd op competentie, maar ontstaan vanuit passie en een enorme gedrevenheid. En door Somsen.


De samenwerking met Somsen ontstond door een album dat laatstgenoemde geheel wijdde aan muziek van de veelgeprezen pianist. Dat vereerde Pieranunzi zo, dat hij het plan opvatte een trio samen te stellen met hem en Pieter Bast. Geheel begrijpelijk, gezien de inventieve en originele benadering die Somsen aan de dag legt. Hij is technisch zeer begaafd, vingervlug en staat garant voor het avontuurlijke aspect in de arrangementen.


Dramatiek en melancholie zijn sterke drijfveren in Pieranunzi's composities en de gevoelige, verhalende melodielijnen zijn hartveroverend. Met het grootste gemak rolde het ene na het andere lyrische hoogstandje onder zijn handen vandaan, zoals 'Transitory Grace' en het wonderschone 'Where Stories Are', waarin ook Somsen ruimschoots de kans kreeg om de melodie te verkennen. De swing werd bepaald door de ritmische ongedwongenheid van de ervaren Bast. Intensief oogcontact en parelende zweetdruppels op zijn voorhoofd verraadden wel enige spanning bij de drummer, die soms het spreekwoordelijke bos in werd gestuurd, wanneer Pieranunzi totaal verdiept in zijn spel zijn eigen gelouterde weg ging.


Het is hem vergeven. Na een welgemeend applaus was de toegift van een dankbare Pieranunzi 'Every Smile Of Yours'. Dat zegt genoeg, denk ik.


- Donata van de Ven, 7 juni 2013