Nuccio Intrieri

Dancing with the Moon

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Among the most lyrical and experimental of all the Italian jazz pianists is Nuccio Intrieri. He also possesses a matchless encyclopedic knowledge of the jazz canon for the instrument. Not even Stefano Battaglia holds this much history within his grasp. Therefore, it stands to reason that this trio date with bassist extraordinaire Giovanni Tommaso and drummer Giampaolo Ascolese would be a referendum on the very foundations of swing and bop. Intrieri's use of odd tempos and his deeply percussive attack on the instrument are reminiscent of pianists from Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson to Bud Powell and Bobby Timmons. His compositional method is one of streamlined grace and punchy blues elegance (notice the deep-pocket riffing in B flat on "Piluffi" and the staccato phrasing in "Obstinate in C"), and his sense of the standard or jazz classic is decidedly non-classical -- take a good listen to the way he stomps all over Bill Evans' harmonies in "Blue in Green." His ability to lyrically walk so far out on a plank and melodically challenge every harmonic nuance is largely because of Tommaso, whose sense of time and ability to shift within intervals are peerless, particularly in Italian jazz and nearly so in all of European jazz. His pizzicato style, which is reminiscent of but not confined to Scott LaFaro, is noteworthy because LaFaro was a melodic player who attacked his instrument aggressively while staying in the rhythmic pocket. He never pushed a tune -- he held it. And this is Tommaso's particular gift, too: Check his breaks on "Mr. You" and the title track, where he keeps Intrieri and Ascolese right on the rail of rhythmic chaos, allowing them to step off the edge but never falling completely from the constraints of tempo despite their harmonic liberties. Ultimately, because of Tommaso's willingness to anchor and bend melodies and rhythms, this is a consonant date. Intrieri's pianistic restlessness is always given safe harbor, and he utilizes that space effectively and to great chromatic and coloristic effect.

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