If you like great jazz music, and you haven’t yet heard Enrico Pieranunzi, well then go to Youtube and familiarize yourself with this virtuoso of classic piano jazz. I just returned from an overnight in Copenhagen, where I, along with my husband and a couple of friends, had the intense pleasure of experiencing Pieranunzi playing piano, along with a superb bassist and excellent drummer, both from Denmark, Jesper Ludgaard and Jonas Johansen. Here is yet another little story from life for you, dear Readers.
We got to Montmartre jazz club in the center of Copenhagen at the appointed time to meet my husband’s friend, a very nice, big, Viking-looking man named Kurt who has kept his hair long and his sanity intact while living there his entire adult life. Our other friend, Søren, showed up five minutes before the music began, and when I inquired what had happened to make him late he simply smiled and said, “sometimes I get a bit lost and completely lose track of time,” so I smiled and nodded back, “oh, okay then, I’ll remember that about you for the future!” During the hour in between arriving and when the music started, the small club became full with patrons, the waiters buzzing around our table, which was right in the middle of the room. The stage was the entire back end of the room, with enough space for the piano, the drum kit and a place for the upright bass player to sit. The club probably held about 80 people maximum, so I could tell it was going to be a special night of music as soon as we sat down. My husband was uncomfortable at the table we had been given, and chose to go sit with his Viking friend on some chairs closest to the stage, in front of the drum kit and bassist. I was left behind (by my choice,) with a goblet of red wine, a delicious Italian dessert, and a bunch of mostly middle-aged Danish people.
The club got more and more crowded, the sound man made the final preparations, and then a man stood up and (in Danish of course,) introduced Enrico and his trio. They came out, bowed, sat down at their respective instruments, and then began to play. Within minutes, everyone in the room was silent, focused on the music. By the middle of the second piece, I was overtaken by the music’s spell, transported to another realm where there was simply piano, bass and drums woven together in an enchanting tapestry of melody, rhythm, percussion, and beautiful, intricate sounds. As all of you lovers of jazz music know, it is nearly impossible to put words to the experience of hearing it live. It simply has to be experienced to be understood. My body was swaying, my feet were tapping, my hands were playing along with the various melodies and underrhythms, my thoughts dwindling until after a while I was simply in the music totally. It was wonderful!
Enrico Pieranunzi, being the consummate musician and graceful person that he is, played brilliantly and had the perfect combination of control and improvisation, allowing each player to have a turn at the lead. For two and a half hours, with about a twenty minute break in between sets, they played some of the best jazz music I have ever heard in my life. All the more so because I had no great expectations before the concert, I had simply said ‘yes’ to my husband’s insistent invitation that ‘shouldn’t we go to Copenhagen and see Enrico Pieranunzi? Wouldn’t you like to?” Besides, I really let myself enjoy the whole thing: being in an upscale jazz club in the middle of Copenhagen, drinking first red wine, then a glass of wonderful, cold beer in a tall pilsner glass, getting totally immersed in the wonderous music, and afterwards even indulging in smoking a cigarette, something I haven’t done for many years, but as long as I was somewhat drunk and had just heard some of the best music ever, I thought why not? Not only that, but along with the music, smoking and drinking, appeared a side of me rarely seen these days: my uninhibited self. I became witty, sharp and funny, enhanced by the vices in which I had indulged. After the show was over, it was still not even 11 o’clock, so the four of us began walking through the streets, passing all sorts of revelers in evening dress, many of them obviously already drunk . It was a festive time, fun and a little exciting for me, who leads an otherwise very quiet and uneventful life.
As we walked along, talking of this and that, I suddenly had a rush of wonder at the beautiful music we had all just experienced, and I said, mostly to my husband, “Now what did you think of that music, wasn’t it really great?” to which he replied, ‘Well, it was okay,” in a subdued voice. In a heartbeat I was suddenly overcome with disbelief. “Okay!?? Are you kidding? That was some of the greatest jazz music EVER, as good as Miles Davis caliber, and I know that even Miles himself would have thought so!” I replied passionately. We walked further along the street. “Did you think it was great, Kurt?’ I asked. “Yes, I did,” Kurt replied calmly. “And you, Søren? Did you like it?” “Yes, I thought it was very good, I even made up a whole story in my head while they were playing,” Søren answered. Then my husband said, “I was actually more in the mood for Wagner,” to which I was simply speechless. We walked along some more, as I struggled with my outrage over my husband’s comment. I felt as insulted as if I had been playing the music myself, had just poured out all of my skill and virtuosity and heart only to have it fall on only half-opened ears and heart. I felt suddenly deflated, like the fizz had gone out of the soda pop of my soul.
We eventually found a bar with an empty table outside and sat for a while, they had more beers and I a ginger ale, talked a little bit. Then, suddenly, the waiters were telling us we had to finish up, it was nearly midnight. When I asked why they were closing so early on a Friday night, one told me it was the law in Copenhagen, after 12:00 everybody had to drink inside, but they were open until 5 am. So much for that, so then the four of us walked all the way through town, up one long street and down another, for half an hour, until we finally got back to Kurt’s apartment on the west end of town. There we all drank tea and listened to a part of a Wagner CD that my husband had brought along with him. By then it was so late, and I was so tired that all of my earlier euphoria had left, I could only huddle in my chair with my mug of tea, and wait out the Wagner music and conversation until it was time to sleep.
Live music, when it is played by consummate players, has no equal. I guess the nearest experience which might compare is lovemaking when it is done by two people in love. Perhaps for some, meditation can also bring one to that state of near-perfect bliss, though that has not been the case for myself. But Music, ahhh, Music!! I am so grateful to Enrico Pieranunzi and his group for giving all of us in the room last night such a wonderful, healing gift through their beautiful, interesting, intricate music. All the more so because I had no expectations as to its magic before I came. While they played I could dream, I could feel on a plane that was not tied to the body, I flew, I left this earth altogether, I was among the stars in a place where there were no words, only music, purely, wonderfully, lovingly, freely, music.
I suppose I will never know why my husband, who had been so enthusiastic about getting the tickets and taking the trouble to go to Copenhagen to see these musicians performing, afterwards was not impressed, did not love it like I did, but instead felt he would rather enjoy a record of Richard Wagner. After my initial shock at his cavalier and lackluster response to the concert, today I simply felt sad and disappointed that he didn’t love it the way he had expected to, and as I had. And it was a reaffirmation about human nature, about the paradoxes and the ironies that we contain, the judgments that we make. I will never know how or why another person can miss something which, to me, is utterly wonderful, great, fantastic. And yet, I suppose that I miss all sorts of things that, to another person, are really amazing. Life on earth is a subtle undertaking, many many times. Easy to miss its beauty, its wonder, if you are too busy expecting or distracted by something else than what is right before you.
Last night I was as fully present to something beautiful as I have ever been. For those precious moments I am very grateful, and it is a memory I will carry with me for many years to come. Next life, I plan to come back as a musician, a very fine one. A pianist, or something like it, I think. That way I won’t have to rely on measly words to describe how I feel. I’ll just give it all over to the music.
- The Living in Copenhagen Diary entry number nine: July’s Jazz Festival (icenews.is)
- Blue Monk (1954). Thelonious Monk /via spotify and italy/ (rgable.typepad.com)
- A Love Supreme: John Coltrane, hope and jazz (dailykos.com)
- the Jazz Gene: Why Some Music Has No Genre… (bassadelic.com)