Veteran jazz saxophonist Marco Pignataro opened April with the release of a new live recording in the form of Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance: Awakening. Recorded in July 2021 at Boston’s GBH Fraser Studio with his fellow musicians, Kenny Werner (piano, vocals), Nadia Washington (vocals, guitar), and Devon Gates (bass, vocals), the performance was a virtual concert. Now nine months after it was captured, that concert has come home on CD through Zoho Music. It is certain to appeal to Pignataro’s established audiences and very targeted jazz audiences. That is due in part to the concert’s set list, which will be discussed shortly. The concert’s production is just as noteworthy as its set list, and will be examined a little later. The concert’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered, they make the concert a presentation that jazz fans will find worth hearing at least once.
Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance: Awakening, the new live recording from Marco Pignataro, is a unique live presentation from the veteran jazz saxophonist and his fellow musicians. That is proven in part through its featured set list. The set list is composed of a variety of originals, covers and even spoken word pieces whose run times bring the record’s run time to more than 50 minutes. The spoken word songs are performed by Washington with poems that were crafted by Pignataro. Pignataro and company meanwhile, offer light, subtle, original musical backings for each performance. The whole of those moments will lead audiences to conjure thoughts of those hipster night clubs where just such performances would take place. The only difference is that the bongos and people with black berets would be replaced with people of much higher class. Just as interesting to note is that the spoken word performances are short, the longest clocking in at only two minutes, eight seconds. So in reality, they are their own performances, but at the same time, serve double duty as interludes, so to speak, within the concert’s bigger picture. Their addition within the record, to that end, makes them their own interesting aspect.
The covers featured in the set list meanwhile, are important in their own right. Their number is limited to just four, but they are quite well-known works in themselves. One of the covers, that of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Send One Your Love’ opens the record. The group’s performance here is even more relaxed than Wonder’s original, which itself is subdued in its own approach. Washington’s R&B-tinged vocal approach does so well in the place of Wonder, while the omission of any drums in this case actually improves on the original. The subtle use of the guitar alongside her vocal delivery is a clear illustration that less can be and is so much more. Even the occasional accents from Pignataro on the soprano sax makes for its own touch. The whole makes for an interesting presentation in its own right.
Touching on the recording’s originals, ‘Farfallina’ is among the most notable tracks. It is notable in part because while it is centered on one of Pignataro’s poems, it is not presented as one of the concert’s spoken word performances. Washington actually sings the lines composed by Pignataro, singing about a butterfly, which of course is a metaphorical term here. The pairing of Pignataro’s performance on the saxophone and that of Werner on the piano along with the vocal layering incorporated at times — which makes for an interesting call and response effect — makes the overall performance quite unique in its own right. When it and the other originals are considered along with the covers and the spoken word tracks, the whole of the concert’s set list gives audiences reason enough in itself to take in the virtual concert. Of course the set list is just part of what makes the recording worth hearing. The concert’s production adds its own touch to the appeal of its presentation.
The production that went into Awakenings is of note because again, the concert was recorded and presented sans audience. That means those responsible for the sound mix did not have that crowd noise to balance with the musicians. In its absence, those responsible for the production still had to ensure that the musicians’ performances were balanced within the confines of the performance space and the acoustics therein. The utmost attention was clearly paid to balancing each instrument with its counterpart. The painstaking work that went into balancing that audio paid off, as the noted audiences will find this aspect just as positive as the mix of content in the concert’s set list.
Awakenings‘ packaging rounds out its most important elements. The packaging refers here, to the overall content provided with the recording. On the back of the package, the covers and originals are denoted with credit for the covers give to their original acts. The originals are credited to the group, and those within the group. Case in point, Werner composed the late entry, ‘Inspiration,’ and is given his due credit. The Beatles (specifically, John Lennon and Paul McCartney) composed ‘Because,’ one of the concert’s featured covered. They receive their own credit. Giving credit where due not only is a legal issue, but also ensures audiences know which songs are originals and which are covers right off the bat.
Also within the packaging are liner notes pointing out that each of the featured works (musical and spoken word alike) follow one theme, that of love in each form. From romantic to familial and other, the liner notes within the package let audiences know that the songs’ focus was intentional from one to the next. The liner notes also explain the use of the poems in the spoken word performances, making for appreciation for those moments, too. Speaking of the poems that Pignataro wrote, they are presented as part of the overall packaging, too. Keeping that in mind along with the rest of the information provided in the packaging, the whole of this element clearly shows this element’s importance to the recording’s presentation, too. When this element is considered along with the rest of the recording’s items, the whole makes Awakenings a unique addition to this year’s field of new live recordings.
Marco Paignataro’s Dream Alliance’s Awakening is an intriguing live recording. Its interest comes in part through its set list. The set list features a combination of originals, covers, and spoken word songs. The combination of songs is unique in itself. The production that went into the virtual performance ensures the concert’s sound is just as appealing to the noted targeted audiences as the songs themselves. The packaging puts the final touch to the recording, rounding out its most important elements. Each item examined is important in its own right to the whole of the recording. All things considered, they make Awakening a presentation that Pignataro’s audiences and specific jazz audiences will find appealing.
Awakening is available through Zoho Music. More information on the record is available along with all of Marco Pignataro’s latest news at:
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