Gig preview: Tina May and Enrico Pieranunzi

Singer Tina May and pianist Enrico Pieranunzi will stir memories of two jazz legends who have recently been in the news when they appear at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Thursday, September 29 as part of a UK-wide tour.

May recorded The Ray Bryant Songbook in 2002 in the studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where the recently departed audio engineer Rudy Van Gelder helped to shape the sound of modern jazz on recordings by John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Lee Morgan, among many others. Pieranunzi was once the regular accompanist to singer and trumpeter Chet Baker, the subject of Ethan Hawke’s latest film, Born to be Blue.

The tour is a belated launch for May and Pieranunzi’s Home is Where the Heart Is album, which was released on 33 Records in 2015. Since recording the album the two musicians have been travelling separately almost constantly. May has made repeated journeys to the Far East and France, as well as gigging closer to home, and Pieranunzi has played gigs in New York and at the recent International Piano Trio festival at Ronnie Scott’s in London. So finding a mutually suitable period to tour proved a problem.

“It’s really just the way things are as a freelance musician,” says May. “You take every gig that comes along, assuming a mutually suitable gap will appear, and before you know it, the calendar’s changing. We meant to promote the album live at the time of its release but eventually we just had to set aside a couple weeks in late September and early October and go out and do some concerts together.”

The album continues May’s career as a lyricist as well as a singer. Having added words to compositions by Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Bobby Watson in the mid-1990s, she teamed up in 2002 with the great pianist Ray Bryant – accompanist to Carmen McRae and Betty Carter as well as sideman to Lester Young and Miles Davis – on The Ray Bryant Songbook to considerable acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

On being introduced to Pieranunzi by a mutual friend in 2011, May and the pianist struck up an immediate rapport and five of the nine tracks on Home is Where the Heart Is are collaborative efforts.

As at home playing the works of Rossini as he is Sonny Rollins, Pieranunzi has vast experience as an accompanist, including his work with Chet Baker, with whom he recorded the album Soft Journey among others. He is also a recipient of France’s coveted Django d’Or award and a prolific composer.

“I love working with Enrico as a singer and as a songwriter,” says May. “He writes beautiful melodies that can immediately suggest ideas for lyrics and he seems to know intuitively where I’m going to be at any time in a song. I’m looking forward to the tour immensely because we always have a great time together.”

Tina May & Enrico Pieranunzi, Queen’s Hall, Clerk Street, Thursday, September 29, 8pm, £18, 0131-668 2019 

Words: Rob Adams

Leave a Comment