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Pete Malinverni: Heaven

Dan McClenaghan By

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New York City-based pianist Pete Malinverni is a spiritual man. It's a side of his musical personality that he explores with depth and clarity on Heaven, a mostly trio affair that puts his succinct feel for the sacred, his supple and exquisite touch and his improvisational elan in the forefront on a gorgeous set of music. He serves up the traditional— "Shenandoah," "A City Called Heaven," "Wade In the Water—along with Duke Ellington's "Heaven" and "Come Sunday," and more, including his own "Psalm 23," a commissioned choral composition re-shaped for his piano trio.

Malinverni spent 18 years as the church musician at the Defore Street Baptist church in Brooklyn, New York, an experience that certainly immersed him in creation of music on a celestial scale. With Heaven he asks the question of the essence of the concept. Is Heaven a delayed reward for a righteous existence, or is it here, right now, in every human interaction, in every grain of sand? These are ruminations elicited perhaps by life events: the passing, in 2012, of the pianist/composer's beautiful and talented wife, vocalist Jody Sandhaus, and a reminder of his own mortality via a health scare in 2016.

Malinverni opens the set with Ellington-penned title tune, a bright, sassy , playful rollick-er that says Heaven is here on Earth. The pianist's original, "Psalm 23" explores solemnity and reverence. The African-American spiritual, "Down To The River to Pray" bubbles like clear water rolling over smooth, polished stones.

Heaven reveals Maliverni's seemingly effortless virtuosity combined with a heartfelt embrace of these tunes. Finding a kindred soul in Curtis Mayfield, Malinverni and his trio—bassist Ben Allison and drummer Akira Tana—swing with a fluid grace on Mayfield's "People Get Ready." On Ellington's "Come Sunday," trumpeter Jon Faddis joins the group. Muted, sounding a bit like Miles Davis from 1958, Faddis tells an extraordinarily poignant story with an eloquent, voice-like delivery, backed by the trio's subtle touch as they unfurl eight minutes of understated perfection.

Vocalist Karrin Allyson contributes beautifully on "Shenandoah," with a clear and forthright delivery on the time tested tune. Saxophonist Steve Wilson joins the trio on a modernized "Wade In The Water." The opening statement is crisp, leading into Maliverni's angular solo. Then Wilson and the pianist get into a quirky conversation that sounds like Thelonious Monk and Charlie Rouse in a loose mood.

Heaven presents a top level piano trio with well-incorporated guess slots in a beautiful examination of sacred sounds.

Track Listing: Heaven; Psalm 23; Down to the River to Pray; Shenandoah; Eili, Eili; People, Get Ready; Come Sunday; A City Called Heaven; Wade in the Water; Ashokan Farewell.

Personnel: Pete Malinverni: piano; Ben Allison: bass; Akira Tana: drums. Guests: Karrin Allyson: vocals; Jon Faddis: trumpet; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone.

Title: Heaven | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Saranac

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