The two releases, Theme & Variations and Joyful!, represent an interesting paradigm. They appear, at first glance, to be recordings of wholly diverse musical forms and yet they truly reveal two brilliant sides of the musical sensibility of one very special artist.
Pete Malinverni is a polished piano stylist, one of the most talented jazzmen in New York ... utterly reliable and indispensable"-- Steve Futterman, The New Yorker
Audacious and exquisite"--Jim Macnie, The Village Voice
Pete Malinverni doesn't seem capable of playing a dishonest line"--Paul DeBarros, DownBeat Magazine
Theme & Variations on Reservoir Music--street date: March 21, 2006
Perhaps best known for his piano trio recordings, Pete Malinverni has received universal acclaim for the unique approach his trio has employed toward that venerated form on several stellar recordings, earning inclusion in Year's Best" lists in several publications, including Down Beat Magazine. On Theme & Variations, he steps out alone and offers a singular look at the myriad possibilities of a solo piano performance.
Theme & Variations is the logical result of Pete Malinverni's ongoing lifelong search for musical truth through the study of all disciplines, including jazz and other musical forms. In the manner of so many of the best-loved works of the classical world, the centerpiece of this recording is indeed a theme (named Da Solo", Italian for alone") followed by a set of expressive variations. What is interesting and unique however, is that, while the theme is through-composed, the variations, all thirteen of them, are improvised, in a tour de force performance wholly worthy of taking its place alongside the important recordings in jazz to date. Malinverni analyzed his theme per the elements of music, rhythm, melody, harmony, texture and form, and then picked one or two elements on which to improvise each of the variations. The result is, by definition, a widely varied and expressive performance that conjures up a full range of emotions. Most impressive perhaps is that one becomes aware of Malinverni's formidable pianistic and compositional skills only when prompted. What one hears instead is music--just music--of a high sort, speaking of and to the deepest humanity, and without artifice.
Interspersed in the CD are readings of several other pieces, some of Malinverni's own composition and some by others. The latter include the African-American spiritual, Standin' in the Need of Prayer," Blues Connotation," by Ornette Coleman, Everybody is a Star," by one of Malinverni's early musical idols, Sly Stone, Cole Porter's It Was Just One of Those Things" (two distinct versions), I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," by Lerner and Loewe and These Foolish Things," by Marvell, Stachey and Link. Taken together, Pete Malinverni, Theme & Variations," is a recording destined to be listened to and cherished for a long time.
Joyful!, CD and companion DVD, on ArtistShare--street date: May 2, 2006
Combining the musical styles of jazz and gospel comes as naturally to Pete Malinverni as walking down the street. On his new live CD/DVD recording, Joyful!, Malinverni, who has been in service as Minister of Music at The Devoe Street Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the past fourteen years, has tapped into deep roots that stretch back to his hometown of Niagara Falls, NY, to his days of playing piano in an Italian Pentecostal church as a child, and to his early college years when jazz caught his ear and heart. The music therefore represents a lifelong process that the artist has been engrossed in to reintroduce two long lost siblings, which have been separated at birth."
The original impetus for the creation of Joyful!" came as an invite from bassist Ben Allison of The Jazz Composers Collective for Malinverni to write music for a concert they were producing. Malinverni remembers, faced with the need to come up with something 'different', I hit on the idea of writing original music for the voices I work with every Sunday. Based on my early love for funk and modern gospel and with my training in jazz and classical counterpoint I knew I could write the music. The words were, however, another story entirely. Then I remembered King David's great masterpiece, the 150 Psalms. Written as expressions of praise and supplication, the Psalms' poetic cadences struck me as ideal, having been written for musical settings in the first place." And thus the seeds for this project were planted.
Because the blend of jazz and gospel is so ingrained in Malinverni's playing, the value of this project was not readily apparent to him. He explains, after my trio's performance at last year's Caramoor Festival, I spoke with the Festival Producer, Jim Luce. Jim told me that, to his mind, the gospel/jazz music I'd been writing was something unique and worth the investment of time and money that would bring it to a wider audience. In that moment I saw the rightness of what Jim was suggesting and resolved to do what had to be done to make this project a reality."
Joyful! documents a live concert (at SUNY Purchase in October, 2005) on CD and DVD (The DVD featuring work by videographer Hope Hall and Academy Award winning documentarian Maryann De Leo, who also served as Producer and Director) featuring The Devoe Street Baptist Church Choir, with narrator Reverend Frederick C. Ennette and the wonderful soloists Yvette Glover, Jody Sandhaus, Afua Monk-Addo and Jacklyn LaMont, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, drummer Dwayne Cook" Broadnax, bassist Todd Coolman and, of course, pianist and conductor Pete Malinverni.
To compose this music, I read and prayed over the Psalms. Eventually one would sort of make itself known to me and I worked with it until I found a melody. This was sometimes immediate, or in some cases, took months. Once I had a melody written I harmonized it, with soprano, alto and tenor lines. Then I set the melody and harmony to a rhythmic groove. Once completed, each piece was set into a suite, its place in the suite determined by the usual programming considerations of tempo, tonality, rhythmic feel, etc. Helping each piece segue comfortably into the next is the narration, the reading of the Psalm from which the text of each selection has been extracted.
I've been going in this direction a long time," says Malinverni. I started playing in church when I was just a kid. Interestingly, my home church was Italian Pentecostal. While I was training as a classical pianist and playing that music at church, I developed a great interest in African-American music, particularly the funk of Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Billy Preston and others. I also started to hear the music of the black church in the work of Andrae Crouch and others in the modern gospel world and brought that sensibility with me into my own church. I received the usual warm support there but I was always amused at the confused expressions on the faces of the older congregants who were hearing something new to them. 'God bless you, but I can't recognize the song,' was a pretty standard reaction. I started to play in a funk band with cousins and it wasn't long before jazz got in my ear as well, initially through airplay on a local Buffalo station, WBFO."
Malinverni continues, at college I continued my classical studies but, significantly, began to meet and play with contemporaries who were, like me, looking into the free and beautiful expression of Jazz. I also played at a student church there, where I met and befriended a man, Frederick Ennette, from Brooklyn, NY, which friendship would eventually change my life."
After graduating I realized that my still young love of jazz suggested, indeed required, that I move to the Mecca of that music, New York City. I moved here knowing no one and got kicked around until I was able, after a few years, to make a living as a jazz musician. I had at the same time continued to dig deeper into classical music, studying with Elena Belli, Anthony Newman and, eventually, Sophia Rosoff. The mutually inhabited land of jazz and classical, indeed of all musics of quality, was a region I wanted to understand and map out, at least for myself, and my solo piano and piano trio work and recordings have been witness to that exploration."
My old college friend Frederick Ennette moved back to his hometown of Brooklyn, now a graduate of the Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta, GA, and an ordained Baptist Minister. In 1991 Frederick became Pastor of the Devoe Street Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, and shortly afterward invited me there to play. I felt at home in the church, whose congregation is by now at least ninety percent African-American, but which was founded, in 1904, as the First Italian Baptist Church of Brooklyn, NY. (The original founders, Italian-American immigrants like the ones who had founded my home church in Niagara Falls, NY, suffered the same persecution, but these people in Brooklyn went the next and beautiful step of inviting the African-Americans who had by the 1950s moved into the neighborhood to come and join them in their church. This act of true brotherhood is one that, I think, needs to be made known)."
After a short time the congregation at the Devoe Street Baptist Church invited me to become the Minister of Music and I have been there since, writing and arranging for and conducting the choir as well as choosing and leading the congregational singing. My wife, singer Jody Sandhaus, is one of my standout soloists and my ten-year-old son, Peter Luca, plays at church, sometimes at the piano and also the drums. So, it's not just a gig, it's a way of living a richer life for us, one I and my family appreciate as a great gift."
Since coming to New York, I've worked not only as a musician but also as a record producer, producing my first three recordings (before beginning my happy relationship with Mark Feldman at Reservoir Music, with whom I've made, by now, six recordings) and three for Jody Sandhaus. That experience, of planning and bringing to realization a concept, came in handy with this project. I chose to do it with ArtistShare, appreciating the new model Brian Camelio is putting forward, by which musicians take control of their own output, from start to finish. I like that. I hope you will, too."
CD/DVD Release Information:
Theme & Variations
Release Date, March 21, 2006
Joyful! (CD and companion DVD, live recording!
Release Date, May 2, 2006
Solo piano performance (In A Jazz Tribute," with Barry Harris, Fred Hersch, Michael Kanan and Gregg Kallor)
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 at 8:00 PM
Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall)
TKTS & additional info $35, $15 (students & seniors), available at www.carnegiehall.org
Pete Malinverni with Ben Allison & Leroy Williams
CD release celebration and performance
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 at 8:00 & 10:00 PM
Sweet Rhythm (88 7th Ave South)
TKTS & additional info $15, $10 Min., Phone 212 255 3626, www.sweetrhythmny.com
Solo piano performance as part of WRTI FM's Piano Master Series"
Monday, April 10, 2006, 7:00-9:00 PM
WRTI FM Performance Studio, 1509 Cecil B. Moore Ave
TKTS & additional info $40, Phone 215 204 7022, www.wrti.org
Other appearances include: May 6 at 4:00 PM-The Devoe Street Baptist Church, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (music from Joyful!" with The Devoe Street Baptist Church Choir, vocal soloists: Yvette Glover, Jody Sandhaus, Afua Monk-Addo, Jacklyn LaMont, and Steve Wilson, alto saxophone; Joe Magnarelli, trumpet; Todd Coolman, bass; Dwayne Cook" Broadnax, drums, Pet Malinverni, pianist/conductor, and Narrator: Reverend Frederick C. Ennette, Sr., May 11-Portland State University, Portland, OR ("Think Lincoln!" series, w/ Jody Sandhaus, music from Theme and Variations"), May 13-Cargo Theater, Renton, Washington (music from Joyful!" with 62 member Nelsen Middle School Concert Chorus)