An espresso with…
Enrico Pieranunzi

Image Credits: Enrico Pieranunzi © Leonardo Schiavone

September 4, 2018

Back to the Village Vanguard

Before his eighth performance at the Village Vanguard, we interviewed Enrico Pieranunzi, one of the best known and esteemed Italian jazz artists in the world.
> Ivano Rossato

Eight times in five years, what emotions does it still give you play at the Vanguard?

The emotion is always very strong, I try not to think about it too much, the adrenaline grows even just by going down its famous staircase. Actually it is a cellar but full of suggestions and history. I know everyone from Mrs. Gordon, who was my sponsor and thanks to whom everything was born there eight years ago. I love New York for culture in general, it offers a lot. I get excited because it’s always a dream, even though I’ve made a lot of records, because playing there is an intense experience.
What is your dream today?
Probably I say something that seems common, but my dream is to play better and better. Of course, you need the feedback from the musicians you play with, but my dream is to play better and better. In addition to this, there is actually an artist, who has nothing to do with jazz, whom I would like to play, and it’s Sting, an artist of great charm because he writes and arranges well and has some interesting ideas in the lyrics. Also being able to collaborate with Brian Blade would be very nice, he is an extraordinary drummer.
What does “playing well” mean to you?
It means that, in those moments when you are on stage and you are improvising, you can invent a music that is deeper than you, in which you know that you are all there, and that obviously has also an equally powerful communication capacity, that it is a consequence of this truth, your truth, your story. Almost a moment of trance.There are situations in which you create a kind of suspension, an inner place that you share with others and that you get thanks to the others. This is the magic of jazz that is always a relationship music, and when, thanks to this relationship, you can touch your inner zones for me it is good to play. It is a fusion of intelligence, feeling, communication skills to the highest degree, not necessarily an exclusively technical matter.
What surprises you, after years of incredible collaborations, in the other musicians?
The Beauty. I look for the same thing in the others that I’m looking for in myself. For example, playing with Scott Colley excites me because he has his own way of playing and letting himself go to the music. He is very chromatic, has a beautiful sound and is there with you. Presence in jazz is not a theoretical thing, it becomes a magnetic fact, gravitational waves are created between those who play together. I wait for that moment. I feel privileged because those waves came to me from musicians like Chet Baker, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Joey Baron. My hope is always to be in these waves and to be able to receive them, generate them and respond and multiply them. The real leader is the one who knows how to recognize the best musicians to surround himself with, and knows how to make them the best, like Miles, who for me was like a obstetrician!
Enrico Pieranunzi Jazzespresso magazine Ivano Rossato interview
What does remain of the jazz improviser when you are playing classical music scores?
These are two completely different “settings”, especially the preparation they need is different. You never prepare jazz, you know the chords and the structure, but you know that, when you do it, you will try to make things happen, and you will be in a musical flow where there is a lot of openness. It is true that classical music has a score, but there is always a huge amount of movement, so you can experience the same text with very different intensity and transport. The key word that is often forgotten in jazz is “interpretation”. The emotion in jazz is not only due to the fact that you are improvising, but also by the rate of interpretation and identification that you can pull out. The same rate can be there within a more obligatory path as a classic piece.
How has the way of living the community of jazz and music in general changed over the years?
In New York there is a very serious community with a surprising attachment to tradition. They have a great respect for those who do things well. For them you either make music or do the show. And for what concerns the show, the Americans are very strong, of course, if you think of Broadway, Hollywood,… In Italy, in recent years, cracks have opened up in jazz community, so there is a bit of confusion between the show and the music. So, sometimes, the musician in Italy is also required to be a showman, while when I’m there at the Vanguard, which has a truly international audience from all over the world, the audience gets excited when you play well, and that’s it, the deal is clear. Here we are dominated by pop, television and a certain atavistic taste for the show.
What is today the biggest challenge for a young musician, and what advice would you give him?
The biggest challenge is to try to have an audience. The real problem of jazz, as well as classical music, is that they are losing audience, especially in Italy, less in the rest of Europe. Paradoxically, in the United States there has never been the problem of audience because it has always been relatively little! Already thirty years ago I remember seeing an article that told us that the percentage of jazz records sales in the US was barely the 2% of the total. Besides the thinning of the public there is also an all-Italian problem which is the absence of music education in general. If you do not listen to a music, then you do not look for it and if you do not look for it the audience disappears. And, paradoxically, in Italy there have never been as many good musicians as today. Obviously, it is very important to study and go all out, but also try to be eclectic: for example, if you are a pianist or a guitarist, then I suggest you also be an arranger, not just playing well. And, moreover, it is essential to write your own music. My career comes very much from the pieces I wrote, at least half of my, let’s call it, “fame”, comes from the music I composed. For example, maybe you listen to a 20-year-old musician who improvises well like Herbie Hancock, but Hancock already exists! And probably others will come out like him, so it’s not enough to play well like him. If you do your music instead, the image you offer is much stronger and more attractive. If you have ideas, if you have a personal style, that gives you more identity. 


Reservados todos los derechos – All rights reserved – 版權所有 – 版权所有;  An espresso with… Enrico Pieranunzi copyright Jazzespresso 2018.
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