Music Reviews: July/August 2007

| July / August 2007

The Rise of Rome: Live in Japan by Enrico Pieranunzi, Marc Johnson, and Joey Baron


Based solely on the sheer number of jazz festivals in Italy this summer, music fans may choose to trust JazzTimes columnist Thomas Conrad"s claim in the liner notes to this double disc that the country has "the strongest jazz scene in the world outside the United States." Some xenophobes will need a bit more convincing, though, and a good opening salvo to the argument can be found on these 14 tracks, which feature the classically trained pianist Pieranunzi, a 58-year-old Roman who"s been headlining all over Europe and recording with greats such as Charlie Haden, Chet Baker, and Phil Woods since 1975.

Jazz fans will recognize Pieranunzi"s influences, which include Bud Powell and Chick Corea, and will hear echoes of Keith Jarrett at his most bombastic and a meditative Bill Evans circa Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Each piece--ten trio originals, four others adapted from scores written by cinema soundtrack legend Ennio Morricone--draws on a wide range of emotions and modes of attack, from lush, lingering chordal progressions to mind-bending runs. Most notable (and seductive) is Pieranunzi"s wide dynamic range, the perfect complement to bassist Marc Johnson"s unflinching swing and drummer Joey Baron"s energetic, eclectic lyricism.

It's Baron's involvement, in fact, that convinced this uninitiated listener to give Pieranunzi a spin: One of the instrument"s modern heroes, the drummer has a keen ear for international adventurers of substance. -David Schimke

KEREN ANN: Keren Ann

(Blue Note)

You could say that Keren Ann"s voice--exquisitely clear, arresting even at a hush--rivals Cat Power"s, or that her delivery--the smooth crooning of "Where No Endings End," maybe the sexy growl of "It Ain"t No Crime"--puts Norah Jones to shame. That her songwriting does right by Joni Mitchell and Serge Gainsbourg, whose music she admired when she was growing up in France. It would be a start, but it still wouldn"t capture Keren Ann. Like her accent, which tickles the ear and seems almost-but-not-quite familiar, the Dutch-Javanese-Russian-Israeli singer-songwriter is hard to place--and totally addicting. In her fifth record, intimate lyrics complement rich arrangements of acoustic strings, rumbling electric guitar, and cool choral samples. It"s a slow-burning beauty of an album. -Julie Hanus

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