Tony Marino – “Que Pasa” – a collection of personal experiences

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Throughout the twelve albums released over 20 years, the sound of Tony Marino’s powerful ensemble leaves no doubt: his blend of Latin-inspired jazz has the capacity to excite, to thrill, and to deliver inspiring music. The ensemble parts are bright, strong, and dynamic while the soloing is minimal but exceptional in its economical spots with percussion bubbling and percolating throughout. This is why Marino stimulates such powerful empathy in all kinds of audiences. He never gets lost in meaningless meandering on his instrument, hence holding the attention of the listener throughout any of his compositions. He defies those who easily dismiss jazz music as sounding laboriously egocentric in its overlong doodling.

Tony Marino’s sound is elegantly tuneful, strictly rhythmical and efficiently essential, in its arrangement. All of which makes for an easy-going, but captivating listening experience. He is a solid, well-considered player whose performances can always be counted on to be elegant and durable.

Tony Marino’s latest album, “Que Pasa” reveals a relaxed and swinging pianist, playing as effortlessly as if it were the easiest thing in the world. It is yet another jazz recording from Marino, for people who have trouble getting into jazz music.

And by that, I don’t mean that it’s watered down easy listening for pop lovers. What I mean is that it’s the perfect gateway to the challenging world of improvisation and song structures found in jazz. The appeal of Tony Marino’s work here, comes from his amazing tone production and the almost casual disdain with which he treats the sometimes complex meters.

There are moments where he almost seems too slick o be true. According to Tony, each of the songs that make up “Que Pasa” has a particular significance in his life. Starting with “State Street Stroll”, which was inspired from Tony’s time living in Santa Barbara, and all the fond memories of strolling down State Street, as well as playing at Soho during the monthly jam sessions hosted by Jeff Elliott.

The runaway rhythm of “Schuylkill Expressway” recounts Marino’s experiences driving from South Philadelphia to Norristown PA using the Expressway. In one week’s worth of travelling, a truck transporting chicken overturned, a man was shot, and a truck transporting gasoline exploded, explained Marino.

“Cliff Drive” shifts along on a smooth momentum and a sweetly resonant melody. This is where Tony visited and met with friends at the Rose Café. The song “Never Ends” was inspired by “Riders On The Storm” one of Marino’s favorite Doors recordings, so expect slightly more dynamic bombast.

The mellifluous “Waltz Upon A Time” was inspired by holiday celebrations Tony spent together with his family. On composing the track, it was Tony’s wife who came up with the title. The carefree and relaxed arrangement of “Camino Real” refers to yet another Santa Barbara memory.

The rhythmical swing of “Gato” goes back to the days when Tony Marino studied piano under Bill DelGovenatore and was loaned the  album “Chapter One: Latin America” by Gato Barbieri – an artist whose performances Tony attended many times.

Years later Tony actually studied with the pianist who was part of Gato Barbieri’s band. When Jimmy Heath passed away in January 2020, Tony tried to inform Claudio Roditi of Jimmy’s passing, only to discover that Claudio himself had passed away. The song “Que Pasa” was inspired by a phrase that Claudio always used when greeting Tony over the phone, ‘Monsieur Marino, Que Pasa’.

Beauty, simplicity and sincerity transpires throughout “Bill and Donna”, a song dedicated to Bill DelGovernatore and his wife Donna. Tony Marino’s secret is that his music is beautiful – unerringly, dreamily beautiful. Marino’s music means solid and fluid at the same time. It’s steady but always swinging and tuneful.

The final track, “Solstice”, lifts the tempo and tone of the album, as Marino delivers a song dedicated to his favorite band Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo. Most of all, for the listener, there is the sheer pleasure of hearing and experiencing the wide, rich range of emotions that come from Tony Marino’s personal experiences.

The album “Que Pasa” is dedicated to to Claudio Roditi. Very simply, this is one of Tony Marino’s most accessible and enchanting records to date!

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