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Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2

Dan Bilawsky By

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With Ballads...Searching For Peace (Self Produced, 2011), saxophonist Michael Pedicin managed to produce a work that satisfied by focusing on subdued sentiments while also shining a light on the compositions of some of the great tenors of all time. On this perfectly complementary companion piece, Pedicin dims the lights and wears his heart on his sleeve again. But this time it's guitarist Johnnie Valentino's music that's in the spotlight.

Eight of the ten tracks that comprise As It Should Be: Ballads 2 come from Valentino's pen. His music, by and large, is sweet and accessible, comforting and controlled, and completely in keeping with the tone of this type of project. The guitarist's writing talents were hinted at on Pedicin's initial ballads project—he delivered the heavenly "Few Moments" and the lovelorn "Blame It On Your Heart" on that one—but they're in full bloom here.

All of the pieces Valentino contributed to this album rest in the same spirit zone, but each has its own way of refracting mellow moods. "Bellagio" blends peaceful thoughts with hints of nostalgic lament and emotional resolution, "No Hard Feelings" focuses on lyrical shapes, "As It Should Be" moves in a different manner by evolving from a glider in three into a statement of strength and purpose, and "By Itself" sings high and clear with a stately aura. It's perfectly obvious how any one of those songs relates to another in terms of flavor and atmosphere, but it's just as easy to see how each stands apart.

It's tempting to heap the lion's share of the attention here on Valentino—his songbook, after all, makes up the entire album, save for a relatively straightforward "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and a spiritually questing "Crescent"—but it's Pedicin's gorgeous horn work that serves as the focal point, bringing everything and everyone together. His lush tenor takes you on journeys worth getting lost in and his soprano is poignant yet proud in its presentations. Whether painting a melody, riding high on a concluding vamp, or reading between the lines, Pedicin always finds the perfect way and time to present his ideas. He aligns himself with an empathetic set of musicians capable of working the less-is-more angle without ever letting the music move toward monotony. Together, everybody crafts one heartwarming statement of beauty and unity after another.

Track Listing: As It Should Be; Storyteller; No Hard Feelings; Bridge Over Troubled Waters; Crescent; Bellagio; By Itself; Facing The Night; From Afar; Last Words.

Personnel: Michael Pedicin: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Johnnie Valentino: guitar; Frank Strauss: piano, Fender rhodes; Mike Boone: acoustic bass; Justin Faulkner: drums; Alex Acuña: percussion.

Title: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

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