With the April 21 release of As It Should Be: Ballads 2
, tenor and soprano saxophonist Michael Pedicin
continues to spread the message of acceptance and justice he eloquently shared on his critically acclaimed 2011 album Ballads … searching for peace
. “I’m one of those diehard '60s kids that grew up concerned about peace and togetherness,” Pedicin explains. “I think about that every day of my life. We’re all one.”
In addition to covers of John Coltrane
's “Crescent” and Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the album, his 14th as a leader, features eight ballads by longtime collaborator guitarist Johnnie Valentino
. Pedicin and Valentino are joined on the recording by Frank Strauss
on keyboards, bassist Mike Boone
, drummer Justin Faulkner (of Branford Marsalis
's band), and percussionist Alex Acuña
. With the exception of Acuña, all are either from, still live in, or have roots in Philadelphia
Ballads showcasing the exquisitely lyrical aspects of Pedicin’s playing are the focus of the album, but several songs were treated to somewhat brighter grooves than had been originally intended after the musicians got to the recording studio, particularly “From Afar,” which was double-timed at a bossa-nova-like clip by Faulkner and Acuña.
A second-generation saxophonist, Pedicin is the son of alto saxophonist and singer Mike Pedicin, a hugely popular entertainer and bandleader in the Philadelphia area for more than six decades until his retirement at age 80. When the younger Pedicin was 13, his father took him to the Harlem Club in Atlantic City to hear and meet the bluesy jazz saxophonist Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson, who became his hero on the horn. Then he heard records by John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley
, and he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play the saxophone.
Pedicin studied theory with guitarist Dennis Sandole and saxophone with Philadelphia Orchestra clarinetist Mike Guerra, both of whom had once taught Coltrane, as well as with onetime Woody Herman saxophonist Buddy Savitt. While attending Philadelphia’s University of the Arts (UArts), where he majored in composition, he began competing at—and winning— collegiate jazz festivals around the country.
Switching from alto to tenor as his main instrument at age 20, Pedicin supported himself throughout the 1970s as a member of the horn section at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios. Working for producers Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell, he played on countless sessions by the likes of the Spinners, O’Jays, and Lou Rawls even as he continued to tour with Maynard Ferguson, the O’Jays, Rawls, Stevie Wonder, and David Bowie. Michael Pedicin Jr.
, his first album, was released in 1980 on Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International label.
From 1976 to 1981 Pedicin taught at UArts, and during much of the ’80s, he juggled teaching duties at Philadelphia’s Temple University and two years of touring with Dave Brubeck. Besides leading his own quintet, he toured from 2003 to 2006 with Pat Martino and in early 2011 with the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Darius Brubeck filling in for his ailing father.
Pedicin also continued his non-musical education, earning a Ph.D in Psychology from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine/International University for Graduate Studies in 2002. The shingle above his office in Linwood, NJ, reads “Dr. Michael Pedicino” as he recently changed his last name back to the one taken away from his grandfather in 1906 when he arrived at Ellis Island from Foggia, Italy. While Pedicin has no plans to change his name in the world of music, he is in the process of obtaining dual American-Italian citizenship.
The new album is just the latest chapter in this master musician’s ongoing quest to help make Philadelphia’s sobriquet as the City of Brotherly Love a reality for human beings of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities through sweet melodies and gentle improvisations. “My goal with this CD,” Pedicin explains, “was to create some pretty and accessible jazz in ballad form. This is not about revolutionizing the art form we so love, but providing a soft and relaxing platform on which to enjoy it.”
Michael Pedicin will celebrate the release of As It Should Be: Ballads 2
at the following engagements: 4/16 Smalls, NYC; 4/22 Exit Zero Jazz Festival, Cape May, NJ (for which Pedicin is Artist in Residence); 5/12 Trumpets, Montclair, NJ; and 5/13 Chris’ Jazz Café, Philadelphia. Personnel is the same as on the new CD, minus Alex Acuña and with drummer Anwar Marshall subbing for Justin Faulkner.