(5 / 5)
Live recordings are hit and miss. Often they are patchy, an uneven listen and unless there are big bucks in the budget, more often than not the audio quality can be a bit naff to say the least. Even major label stuff with money thrown at it can be disappointing. Many are doctored to death in the studio post-gig, and bear little resemblance to the original recording.
I can count on one hand the number of great live albums I have, in a collection of music that I started way back around 1969. I tend to give live stuff and most compilations the swerve these days, so as not to be disappointed.
I make an exception here. Three real jazz masters… pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, bassist Mads Vinding and drummer Alex Riel….at the peak of their powers, on this new, previously unreleased live album, “Yesterdays”, recorded in 1997. The recording quality is second to none, as good as many studio efforts.
In that same year, Stunt Records had released a studio session with this trio, “The Kingdom – Where Nobody Dies,” and 20 years later they release this brilliant live album, the trio caught in the act at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse. This high-quality, multi-track recording, captures that November night in Copenhagen, with all three playing with effortless confidence and mastery.
Only seven cuts here, but it all weighs in at a perfectly acceptable 66 minutes, and we are speaking of quality not content, after all. The set opens with the title track, a Jerome Kern composition, the second longest duration here of just above 11 minutes. The Great American Songbook standard, Richard Rogers’ “My Funny Valentine”, gets a whopping 12 minute and 54 seconds airing.
The outfit also offer up Victor Young’s, “My Foolish Heart” – where the bass and drums lock tight and the piano man swings like heck, playing out of his skin with creative run after run – Fats Waller’s delightful “Jitterbug Waltz”, Gary Peacock’s, “Vignette”, an Arthur Schwartz composition, “If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You” (a pacy tune that fits like a glove for this trio), and the graceful Enrico Pieranunzi-penned, “A Nameless Date”. A quality example of the song writing craft, and a worthy addition to sit alongside the classics. Some beautiful fluid runs from Enrico on this tune.
The Victor Young tune they also recorded on the previously released album “The Kingdom – Where Nobody Dies”. (Can’t compare them as I have not heard the first go at the song, but I am told this is an extended and more improvised version). That previous album is now one of the all-time best sellers on the Stunt record label.
The Italian’s deft skills on those keys are in his own style, for sure, but I hear nods to the likes of McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, Dave Grusin, most definitely the great French pianist Michel Petrucciani, and maybe touches of Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans and hard bop exponent Cedar Walton. Alex channelling the likes of Max Roach, Tony Williams, Joe Morello, Art Blakey and the sensitivity and unobtrusiveness of former Miles Davis drummer, (from the 70s) Al Foster.
Bassist Mads in the same territory as Mingus, Ray Brown, Eugene (or Gene) Wright and Ron Carter, also with shades of young (45) contemporary bassist Christian McBride. Note: Pieranunzi, Vinding and Riel are in the same class as the likes of all of these starry jazz names I spew out in this review, as regards skill and quality. That is indisputable.
The record swings, it flows, it grooves, it lays back and creates an emotional ambience too; lots of light and shade between the up-tempo and slower material. Enrico is an exceptionally gifted pianist and an uber-creative interpreter of new and older material; the latter of which may have been done to death and seemingly covered every which way – until this man gets a hold of it.
But there should be just as much kudos given to Mads and Alex for their effervescent and steadfast contributions, allowing the Italian to veer off the beam if the fancy takes him, knowing above all else, they have his back. A very safe pair of hands x 2, indeed.
No big name guests required here. This is a glorious jazz trio record showcasing not just a truly magnificent pianist, but two more mega talents and a sparkling performance that has waited two decades to be heard. An essential listen, sincerely, therefore an easy task to award this album the maximum five big fat stars. Bravo.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’