You may not know the name Dave Pietro
offhand, but it is likely, if you are a jazz fan of any sort, that you have heard him play. As a saxophone/woodwind artist, composer, educator, sideman, and bandleader, he has performed across a broad spectrum of projects since his becoming a mainstay on the New York scene in 1987. That aspect of his career has enabled a sizable skill set that transfers over into his personal projects.
His compositional skills have been enhanced as a member of some of the most creative large ensembles in jazz today, most prominently during a ten year tenure as lead alto in the Toshiko Akiyoshi
Jazz Orchestra. His compositions and arrangements show an influence from his time performing with the Maria Schneider
Orchestra, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Woody Herman
, and Arturo O'Farrill
On his eighth release as a leader, Pietro has produced what may be his finest work, leading a star studded cast through eight finely crafted tunes. Like many releases in this calendar year, Hypersphere
(Artistshare, 2020) reflects the experience of living in quarantine, of slowing life down and simplifying one's focus. The album title refers to multiple spheres of life that most humans must juggle at once, leaving us stressed and unfulfilled. In essence, the music seeks the spirit of peace amidst chaos.
Pietro heads a stellar front line with trumpeter Alex Sipiagin
, and trombonist Ryan Keberle
in tow. Gary Versace
joins on piano, rhodes and Hammond B-3 organ, and provides not only a solid harmonic base, but off-the-rails soloing as well. Bassist Johannes Weidenmueller
, drummer Jonathan Blake
, and percussionist Rogerio Boccato
add fire and grace to the proceedings. In all, the band is a perfect fit for Pietro's colorfully expressive compositions.
The opening two pieces exemplify the artistic balance of this project. "Kakistocracy" finds Pietro's strong arrangement morphing into a rousing alto solo from the leader. In a flash, his full pedigree comes to light as both a composer and musician. "Boulder Snowfall" conjures images of Schneider's work, with Pietro doubling on flute. The light, airy theme is accentuated by Pietro's piercing alto and Versace's elegant solo.
One of the true gems in jazz today, yet largely underappreciated, Versace opens "Gina" solo on B-3, giving way to Pietro's lush arrangement. Beautiful solo work between melodic passages by Pietro, Weidenmueller and Versace seem compositionally interwoven into the piece.
"Quantum Entanglement" amps up the energy, and truly highlights the marvelous convergence of talent on this session. Pietro works his way through the piece with angular, boppish lines. This session provides listeners with the best opportunity yet to hear Pietro soloing at his absolute best, while putting his best foot forward as a leader. His solo work exhibits complete ideas as formidable as the melodies he composes and arranges for his bandmates. Delightfully, his intellect does not get in the way of his emotion, something plainly evident throughout this recording.
This collection of original compositions is undoubtedly the best place to get acquainted with Pietro's full range of strengths as an artist. Exploring themes of love, truth, and interconnectedness in turbulent times has always fallen on thevaetist. On Hypersphere
, Pietro steps forward, exploring every dimension of his artistry with a front-line cast behind him.
Kakistocracy; Boulder Snowfall; Gina; Hypersphere; Incandescent; Quantum
Entanglement; Tales of Mendacity; Orison.