Title - Awakening
Artist - Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance
For those not in the know, on Marco Pignataro’s previous ZOHO album, Almas Antiguas - an acclaimed 2018 encounter with old masters Alan Pasqua, Eddie Gomez and Adam Cruz - the Bologna-bred master saxophonist-composer celebrated his Mediterranean roots with a program that told, as he put it then, a story of love in notes and tones.
On Awakening (out now via Zoho Music), what is revealed is a recording that documents a virtual live concert at Boston’s GBH Fraser Studio in July 2021, sponsored by JazzBoston, and where Pignataro meditates on the eternal subject of romantic love from a different angle.
He showcases another stream of artistic expression, scripting a narrative that merges his intensely contemplative, metaphor-rich English language poems with iconic songs from the canons of pop music from America and the British Isles and original material.
It is an obvious cliché to call presentations like this beyond category, but that’s what Awakening is. That said, if an editor demanded a description, I’d call the proceedings the highest-level chamber jazz, lyrical, melody-rich, harmonically sophisticated, masterfully executed, containing elements drawn from classical, gospel and opera, animated by a sensibility that embodies Wayne Shorter’s manifesto, the past is the flashlight for the future! (phew!)
Indeed, Shorter’s aesthetics are the lodestar of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where Pignataro has served as Managing Director since 2009.
With help from BGJI alumnus Chase Morrin, he scored the music for a multi-generational, inter-racial group of Berklee colleagues - iconic pianist-composer Kenny Werner, then 69, who contributes his Grammy-winning song, Inspiration; pellucidly soulful 30-something vocalist Nadia Washington, who also contributes on guitar; and 20+ bassist-vocalist Devon Gates, who harmonizes divinely with Nadia and anchors the flow with resonant tone and unfailing beat. [Ted Panken]
1. Send One Your Love
2. Resilience Of Light
3. Stand By Me
4. Naked Absence
6. Still Water
7. Alone Again Naturally
8. I Caught A Reflection of Me
10. Ode to the Wounded Clouds
12. Moon Threads Prologue: At Night
This quite stunningly orchestrated, wholly ambient, and tremendously effervescent new album opens on the delicately ambient ebb and flow of Stevie Wonder’s Send One Your Love and the veritably spoken-word original Resilience Of Light, they back those up seamlessly with a track that truly reflects the importance of love and hope during the turbulent chaos of the Covid era, Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, and then come the airy, almost translucent waves of Naked Absence, the glimmering Farfallina and the spoken word poetry of Still Water.
A wonderfully decadent rendition of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Alone Again Naturally is a true highlight of this recording and is amiably followed by the lonesome yearn of I Caught A Reflection of Me, the Beatles’ Because (which was itself a song inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata), the spoken word, soothingly ornate Ode to the Wounded Clouds, the album rounding out with the pure gossamer of Inspiration, closing on the layered sax appeal of Moon Threads Prologue: At Night.
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