In jazz, the horns – the saxophones and trumpets – have traditionally been the music’s glamour instruments and its main focus. But the piano has played an important role in the development of the genre, both as a spotlighted solo instrument and due to its role in the rhythm section, and the world’s best jazz pianists have elevated it to a crucial element of any jazz ensemble. Such is the case with composer and pianist Tony Marino, who for over 20 years has been spellbinding audiences with his music. During June 2021, Marino released his latest 10 track album, entitled “Rhythm and Dues”. The songs are animated by people, places, things, and experiences that have influenced, inspired, or touched Tony’s life over the years.
On this album it again becomes clear how Tony Marino has continued to establish himself as a musician with a unique sound and style. What is certain is that Marino is an uncompromising composer, whose conception of melody, harmony and rhythm, is at the center of his compositions. Great music and great musicians delivering great performances, topped off with outstanding production, make “Rhythm and Dues” a favorite of mine.
“Fried Chicken” quickly gets things into the groove, as the rhythm sways and the melodic motifs worm their way into your head, in a song dedicated to lovers of fried chicken. “Couldn’t Be Better”, which is dedicated to Marino’s family, is smooth and mellow, wrapped inside a captivating mid-tempo beat. Only two tracks into this album, and Tony Marino has already shown that he has a deft, sensitive touch, inventiveness and exceptionally good arranging taste.
“Milt’s”, dedicated to Milton Magwood, who owned Milt’s Auto Repair in South Philly, will get your head nodding and your toes tapping with its steady groove. Tony Marino’s sly and breezy rhythm sets the gears in emphatic motion and the effervescence never lets up. On “Jamaican Rum”, inspired by his honeymoon, Marino brings to the mix a deep respect for a song’s balanced structure and the elasticity it allows, before it becomes something else.
The graceful and joyous “Beachside Café” pays homage to the times Marino ate at the Beachside Café when he lived in Santa Barbara, while the more upbeat “Go With The Flow” is inspired by letting things go that are out of our control. Besides revealing strong rhythmic fundamentals, the tracks enchant with personal statements abundant in rich idioms. “What’s Next” offers another alluring canvas painted with elegant instrumental colors.
“Tenacity”, dedicated to the late great jazz trombonist, arranger and composer J.J.Johnson, shows off a more complex arrangement, with bolder musical dexterity and fluency. The title track, “Rhythm And Dues”, was inspired by Leon Russell and Marc Benno’s “Look Inside The Asylum Choir” Album, delivers the goods with a different posture. It connects bass, drums and keyboards in a spiraling swinging verve.
While growing up in South Philly, Tony Marino states that he has many memories of shopping at Overbeck’s Drug Store, George’s Hardware Store, George The Butcher’s, Al’s Rainbow Sporting Goods and Lerro’s Candies, as well as getting his hair cut at Red’s Barber Shop and picking up dry-cleaned clothes at Bambi’s Cleaners. He put all of those memories into the flamboyant arrangement of the closing track, “Broad & Porter”.
Whichever way you look at this album, it is apparent that maturity armors the vertices of this nostalgic musical journey. “Rhythm And Dues” is dynamic, multi-dimensional, and immensely gratifying. Tony Marino is stunning in his melodic sense and passionate delivery, as he brings you an album you surely will return to often.