Pete Malinverni's Invisible Cities:, inspired by the imaginative flights of Italo Calvino's novel of the same name, exists on its own terms and doesn't readily fit into any established jazz style or sensibility. The pianist effectively juxtaposes six of his compositions and four well-known, urban-themed songs. His ballad-oriented tunes, "New OrleansCities & Desire," "SalemHester Prynne," and "A City Called Heaven," are clothed in lovely, expressive melodies, the kind that beg for equally inspired lyrics. Beautifully interpreted by Tim Hagans's trumpet, "VeniceCities & Memory" evokes images of a somewhat formal dance with erotic undertones. Amidst the quizzical, intermittent melody played by the horns on the frantic "Cities & Time," Malinverni pokes and prods the keyboard so as to mock the order imposed by the bass and drums. The loquacious "Istanbul" offers a straight-ahead swing bridge in between bracing twelve bar Latin sections.
The presence of three eloquent, individualistic soloistsMalinverni, Hagans, and tenor saxophonist Rich Perrymakes it easy to overlook the subtle, unobtrusive contributions of bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Tom Melito. Throughout an endlessly stimulating Latin groove that underscores "I Love Paris," they keep a two bar vamp cooking by simply staying put and not moving it in any other direction. Repeating one measure in five-four followed by another in three-four on "Cities & Time," Okegwo and Melito offer the impression of rapidly running in place. The leader's "Chicago" solo swings hard and true in part because of their stalwart support.
Malinverni's "I Love Paris" improvisation integrates pointed, rhythmically charged phrases and brief pauses. Beautiful and unsentimental, Malinverni purposefully strides through Okewgo and Melito's support throughout "SalemHester Prynne." Ostensibly resisting any connection to the bass and drums, the pianist's controlled chaos on "Cities & Time" includes stabbing chords and run on single notes.
Understatement, constant melodic invention, and his own sense of rhythm are earmarks of Perry's playing. A rendition of the melody of "Lonely Town" feels almost unbearably vulnerable in its lack of adornment. Nearly inaudible at the onset, Perry's "I Love Paris" solo stretches and yawns over the vamp before his tone gradually becomes harder and notes more pronounced. During "There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York," he digs into the jaunty swing of the bass and drums with just a slight amount of traction, blithely sails over them, and sometimes executes extended lines in a soft, non-threatening manner.
Leaving ample room for Malinverni's bounding single note combinations and chordal comments, Hagans's "VeniceCities & Memory" solo is in a constant state of flux. He ably fuses brief bravado themes, steely extended lines, and sputtering afterthoughts. The trumpeter floats forlorn reveries over the band, a bent note blooms into a lovely phrase, and a few energetic runs are all part of a solemn improvisation on "SalemHester Prynne."
Personnel: Pete Malinverni: piano; Tim Hagans: trumpet and flugelhorn; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Tom Melito: drums.