The latest JAZZ releases are reviewed.


Enrico Pieranunzi Plays Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas and Improvisations

CamJazz ***** 

More than a salute to a great classical keyboard composer by an exceptional jazz pianist, this labour of love unites baroque music with a 20th-century improviser's experience. And, in leaving jazz for Scarlatti's sonatas, Pieranunzi is brilliantly equipped for the visit. Daring yet respectful performances such as the stunning D major K492/ Impro K492, D minor K9/Impro K9, B Flat major Impro K545/K545,

A major Impro K208/K208, and the B minor K377/Impro K377 are imaginative, passionate, coherent explorations of possibilities implicit in the compositions. In them, Pieranunzi's improvisations are as revealing as his readings of the scores. It's as if Scarlatti is being made to look into the future from his own perspective. In this ego-free personal triumph, Pieranunzi also knows when to leave well enough alone; sonatas K18, K51 and K260 are performed as written. www.Cam.Jazz.com RAY COMISKEY


Blood and Thunder Fresh Sound ****

A gifted crafsman, Irwin, as composer, soloist and leader, defines this impressive album. His originals (seven here) are no mere blowing vehicles. Full of character, they have an accessibility, attractiveness and variety that belie the skill with which he assembles them. Moreover, he uses a stellar band - Chris Cheek (tenor), Ben Monder (guitar), Matt Clohessy (bass) and Ferenc Nemeth (drums) - with a sure touch in ensembles and as improvisers. Although the finest performance (the vinegary Little Hurts) fruitfully suggests wider dimensions, the prevailing tone is melodic, from the lyric beauty of Like the Sunshine and the melancholy elegance of The Wizard, to the country-ish Back to You, the childlike Sprung and the romanticism of Until We Say Our Last Goodbye. If Irwin has a soulmate, it's the late Paul Desmond, a connection reinforced by Monder's evocation of Jim Hall. www.freshoundrecords.com RAY COMISKEY


Live at the Village Vanguard Vol II  Winter & Winter ***

In Masabumi Kikuchi (piano) and Larry Grenadier (bass), Motian, the archetypal drummer-as-colourist, may have found the most likeminded rhythm section for him. Taking his simple, sketch-like originals as blueprints for some expansively free explorations, they create a climate for Chris Potter (tenor), Greg Osby (alto) and, on two tracks, Mat Manieri (violin) in which anything is possible, before finally gravitating back to home base. And few are better than Potter Osby and Manieri at seizing the chances this gives rise to. Backed by Kikuchi, who can be tart and stimulating without upstaging soloists, and such fluid and equally supportive performers as Grenadier and Motian, they deliver some compelling moments; the reservation is that, on an album of reflective, improvised music, almost all rubato, a certain sameness descends despite the shards of inspiration. www.winterandwinter.com RAY COMISKEY