Umbria Jazz in New York with the Enrico Rava Quintet + Enrico Pieranunzi, Marc Johnson and Paul Motian
Birdland; Thu 30, Fri 31
Thu Mar 30 2006
Over the past 34 years, Perugia, an Etruscan-walled idyll renowned for chocolate in the center of Italy, has become a primary stop on the jazz-ambassadors circuit. That’s because Umbria Jazz, a summer festival that sprawls over the city much like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, places bop amid the centuries-old palazzi. The fest isn’t just the province of swinging American dignitaries, however: The Italian love affair with jazz goes back even further than the turn of the ’60s—when trumpeter Chet Baker settled in Rome, and was subsequently jailed there—so it’s no small wonder that recent Umbria Jazz lineups contain much homegrown talent.
Many stateside jazz fans will already be familiar with trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, the flagship names on Umbria’s second annual New York minifest. Throughout Italy, Rava’s stature is akin to that of Sonny Rollins; the 66-year-old bugler actually lived in New York in the ’60s and ’70s, logging time with Carla Bley. Pieranunzi stayed put at his conservatory post in the province of Frosinone, but for the past 25 years he’s entered into several luxuriant recorded partnerships with bassist Charlie Haden (search for First Song, with drummer Billy Higgins), in addition to re-imagining the film music of Ennio Morricone. Fittingly, at Birdland, Pieranunzi will lead domestic MVPs. Rava, on the other hand, pilots a breezy quintet that introduces Italo-jazz’s next wave.—K. Leander Williams