Pietro Tonolo was born in Mirano (Venice) in 1959, and began to play jazz professionally in 1979, leaving behind an alredy blossoming career as a classical violinist. Moving to Milan in 1979, he there worked with some of the leading Italian jazz musicians including Franco D'Andrea, Luigi Bonafede, Gianni Cazzola, Larry Nocella, Massimo Urbani. From 1981 to 1986 he was often a member of Enrico Rava's group. In the summer of 1982 he played in the Gil Evans Orchestra with musicians such as Steve Lacy, Lew Soloff and Ray Anderson; he also played with this ensamble at the Sweet Basil in New York in 1984/85 and at the Umbria Jazz Festival in 1987.
In 1983 he began performing, both as the leader of his own groups and as a sideman, in jazz clubs, at concerts, and on television and radio broadcast throughout Europe and in the United States. He has worked with Kenny Clarke, Roswell Rudd, Sal Nistico, Chet Baker (who he played with in New York in 1985), Lee Konitz, John Surman, George Lewis, Barry Altschul, Joe Chambers, Aldo Romano, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland and Tony Oxley, to name just some. Two albums with a stellar line-up consisting of Gil Goldstein on piano, Steve Swallow on bass and Paul Motian on drums also garner attention by their sheer vibrancy.
In 1986 he began a intense working relationship with the Roman pianist Rita Marcotulli, playing both in a duet with her and a quartet with Enzo Pietropaoli and Roberto Gatto, wich has received acclaim from critics and the public alike. Since 1988, he has collaborated with Henri Texier's group (with which he performed in France, Italy, Mexico, Cuba and Egypt) with Enrico Pieranunzi and Giovanni Tommaso, as well as leading his own groups (with Piero Leveratto, Sandro Gibellini, Alfred Kramer and Roberto Rossi), and playing and writing for the big band Keptorchestra and the sax quartet Arundo Donax.