Space Jazz Trio: synthesis of a musical thought

“It is essential that the musicians establish an eternal dialogue. By doing this together, they connect within an ideal “Space,” where musical thought, emotions and languages find their own synthesis, with the intention of extending the expressive possibilities of the trio and the desire to develop creative freedom, without losing sight of a specific style.”

These words, extracted from the liner notes of the Space Jazz Trio’s first record, best express the group’s musical philosophy inferred from the masterful works of American pianist Bill Evans‘ historic trio with Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro. The trio came to the forefront of the Italian jazz scene during the early part of the 1980s, a period during which the growth of a nouvelle vague of musicians was taking shape in Rome.

Double bassist Enzo Pietropaoli following militancy in rock-blues ensembles, participates as a saxophonist in “home-made” jam sessions together with Danilo Rea on piano, Roberto Gatto on drums, Marcello Piras on electric bass and Carlo Tamponi, later solo flautist in the National Symphony Orchestra of Santa Cecilia.

By choice or necessity, Pietropaoli switched to double bass, an instrument more congenial to him, to form with friends Rea and Gatto the Rome Trio; he joined Enrico Pieranunzi’s lineup on a permanent basis after occasionally filling in for double bassist Riccardo Del Fra. With the arrival of drummer Fabrizio Sferra, chosen by the pianist after hearing him during a concert at the Music Inn in Rome, the Space Jazz Trio was born in 1984.

In the same year, the lineup invited by George Gruntz, artistic director of the Berlin Jazz Festival, performed at the Berlin Philharmonie accompanied by saxophonist Massimo Urbani. While in the German capital, the pianist met the founder of the German label YVP Music, York Von Prittwitz, a German baron with an unbridled passion for jazz.

In particular, the producer appreciates the music expressed by Pieranunzi, whom he has been following for a few years now, so much so that he is committed to the realization and release of the trio lineup’s subsequent studio works.

The group’s first record work entitled Space Jazz Trio Vol.1 was recorded in 1986 at Sonic Studios in Rome, with the input of sound engineer Massimo Rocci. This was followed by Vol. 2, featuring Swiss drummer Alfred Kramer as a replacement for Fabrizio Sferra, who would return in later works, and several other live and studio records, also featuring prestigious international names: Chet Baker, Phil Woods, Johnny Griffin, Woody Shaw, Lee Konitz. From the next Vol.3 the name of the group was changed to Enrico Pieranunzi Trio, a decision motivated by the German producer with these words addressed to the pianist one day – “In jazz, the audience needs to identify with a name and a face.”

The trio enjoyed great success with audiences and critics in Italy and Europe and was elected, in 1988/1989, as the“best Italian group” in the “Top Jazz” referendum held by Musica Jazz magazine.

The success of the lineup coincides with a fundamental period in the maturation of Italian musicians who, having shaken off a certain awe of their American colleagues, acquire greater awareness in their technical-expressive possibilities in order to gain greater visibility internationally. This process of growth was also able to materialize thanks to the work put in by important figures such as Baron York Von Prittwitz, with keen musical sensibilities and, no less important, determined to put themselves on the line in recording adventures often with uncertain outcomes.

Recently deceased, the German producer throughout the 1980s and 1990s continued to release jazz records, particularly by Italian musicians, including a young and still little-known trumpeter, Paolo Fresu.

Note: The record works on the YVP label are recorded and mixed at the historic Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg, Germany, the same studios where a young American pianist, Keith Jarrett, had made his first record works.

Paolo Marra