Jorge Pardo

3 dd’3 Enrico Pieranunzi Trio RNCM, Manchester, 31st July 2009

It was with a distinctly Mediterranean flavour that MJF concluded its occupancy of the RNCM for this year with a double bill of Spanish and Italian interpretations of the universal art form known as jazz before a packed auditorium. First up was Jorge Pardo and trio collectively referred to as 3 dd’3. Pardo is a largely self-taught musician who served his apprenticeship in fusion band Dolores, then came to international prominence as part of the pioneering flamenco-jazz group under guitarist Paco de Lucia and participated on such landmark recordings as ‘One summer night’ and ‘Solo quiero caminar’. This opened up Pardo to a multitude of influences. As sideman his work has taken in Madrid-based Brazilian singer-songwriter Jayme Marques and flamenco singing legend Camaron de la Isla on the seminal ‘ Volando Voy’, not to mention more recently Chick Corea in the jazz sphere on the album ‘ The Ultimate Adventure ‘ from 2001.

The trio are a cohesive unit with a distinctly rootsy feel not dissimilar, though in a specifically Spanish context, to the mid-1960s Brazilian outfit Quarteto Novo headed by flautist Hermeto Pascoal. Both formations engage in a large degree of freedom for their individual constituent members, yet nonetheless operate within a coherent and strictly defined structure. Malaga-born bassist Francis Posse displays his Andalucian roots on a modal bass solo that is possibly inspired, in part at least, by Arabo-Andalucian music and going back further in time to the maqam modes of Iraq. Drummer Jose Vazquez was part of the free jazz scene in Madrid in the 1980s and it is his ability to play both within and outside a given structure that impresses. While the trio may on the surface appear to some to be a somewhat restrictive format, in the hands of a master craftsman it opens up all kinds of possibilities and this is exemplified by a fiery tanguillo from the Cadiz region where percussive flamenco rhythms are conjured up by the use of handclaps from Pardo and by the particularly inventive use of the double bass as a percussive instrument reproducing the sound of the cajon*1 Multi-reedist Jorge Pardo alternates between flute and soprano (the latter shaped like a baby alto)saxophone and while Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane have unquestionably influenced him, he has long ago created his own personalised sound. There is a fiery intensity to Pardo’s playing, particularly on flute, yet this is always tempered by great lyricism and the use of space, knowing when not to play too many notes. The latter is a skill first developed in jazz by pianist Ahmad Jamal and one that Miles Davis took on board. As a collective the trio are supremely skilled in taking a riff and going off in a whole new direction with it, changing tempo at ease yet always returning to the theme on several compositions showcasing their excellent latest album ‘3 dd’3′(Quadrant). This is clearly an environment Pardo feels comfortable in and the empathy generated by the trio members is self-evident. Pardo introduces his bassist part way throughout proceedings as ‘Francis from downtown Malaga’. The trio leave the stage to rapturous applause with the audience clearly wanting more. As Spaniards might say: *2″!Como Jorge Pardo y su trio no hay dos!” In other words, Jorge Pardo and his trio are truly one of a kind!

Jazz music has been blessed in recent decades with a multitude of piano trios ranging from the evolving genius of Brad Mehldau to the sadly departed Esbjorn Svensson as part of EST. It was with great anticipation, then, that Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi took the stage, without great fanfare, but to greatly appreciated applause. The trio began in restrained manner with sensitive percussive accompaniment from Enzo Zirilli. Pieranunzi possesses that quality that all great jazz pianists are blessed with: the ability to construct a melody and then improvise on it effortlessly. Thus the standard ‘Everything I know’ receives a latinesque vamp on piano in the introduction with polyrhythms embellished by Zirilli before Pieranunzi demonstrates what a wonderful blues lexicon he has at his disposal as well as swinging beautifully (a much maligned quality Bill Evans also had in abundance – Pieranunzi has written an acclaimed book on the all-time great pianist).
Integrating the trio ensemble sound are some delightful bass riffs from Daryl Hall, building a new melody into a given composition. Excelling on tunes from the great American songbook, the trio create a meditative ambience and this is illustrated on ‘Yesterdays’ where even though the piece is taken at a quicker tempo than per usual, Pieranunzi seemingly floats over the piano and Zirilli deploys cymbals to great effect, creating a de facto Brazilian theme on percussion. In this respect the trio seem to be taking a leaf out of the great Brazilian piano trios of the 1960s such as Tambo trio, or those led by master drummers Milton Banana and Edison Machado. On the last piece, a staccato piano intro leads into some ferociously paced trio playing with Pieranunzi exploring new territory, using the whole range of the piano. A crescendo of applause results in the trio returning to stage with the pianist engaging in a lengthy piano solo intro, quoting ‘My funny Valentine’ before the other two members enter and the piece is played as a quasi-waltz. All in all an evening of wonderous entertainment and a marvellous advert for MJF’s commitment to jazz from southern Europe. Tim Stenhouse

*1 A wooden percussive block originally used by Black Peruvian musicians, but introduced into flamenco as it evolved and now considered a staple instrument)
*2 Please note that in correct Spanish the first exclamation mark should be placed upside down. I could not find the key to accomplish this on my keyboard.