Joey Pero: Breaking Sound Barriers

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Joey Pero: Resonance is an all-powerful force that can do anything from emit sound from a crystal wine glass, take down a bridge, or be the human experience itself. "Resonance" is the infinite levels of relatedness we all share. It is about connecting to the components that make us all the same. It is compassion, love, empathy, sorrow, anger, joy, et cetera. Resonance is all about the listener, just as my performances are all about the audience. You don't have to be an aficionado of classical, jazz or pop music to enjoy the record. There's something for everyone, and the breaking of genre barriers has to do with the things that have impacted my life.

It's almost like I created a playlist for the listener. All the things that I find imperative about living life are included, right down to packaging being extremely environmentally sound: everything is made with vegetable dye, recycled paper, and we even found a use for old vinyl. We packaged the album to create a sense of nostalgia, right down to the vinyl finish to make it look like the LPs I grew up putting on the family record player. It is very important to me to pay homage to what came before, as inevitably it is what has inspired me.

AAJ: Why the title "Resonance?"

JP: It came quite naturally! From the record's inception, we put a large amount of weight on relating to our listener. When we were in pre-production, we still hadn't come up with a record title. Charles and I had been throwing around so many ideas. Then it occurred to me that the word we kept using was "resonate." I said, "Why don't we call it "Resonance," and it was a unanimous "yes." Every aspect of the record has a deeper meaning, even if we didn't know it at the time, because we so carefully tried to embed a larger truth, almost like a novel. What ended up happening is that, to this day, we discover new things which forward the stories. In this way, our fractals have sort of exploded. Our truth always rang through and the music remained true to its original philosophical intention.

Resonance has several streams of continuity weaved into its makeup, ranging from musical to biographical to the aesthetics. The opening "guzinta" prior to "The Finest Romance" is from Aaron Copland's "Short Symphony." A guzinta is a concept that Charles and I created that acts a short musical interlude, acting as a musical Shakespearean Fool guiding you through the story. "Short Symphony" was the last piece of extreme difficulty that Copland composed. After that point, he constructed his music with the intention of the listener and musician to resonate with his music. This was met with the rave reviews, and Aaron Copland became Aaron Copland—a very interesting conclusion!

Resonance is a musical performance achievement from a number of standpoints. It combines examples of Pero's phenomenal classical trumpeting technique and musicianship (the "Arutunian Concerto," Excerpt from Bach's "Goldberg Variations"), his extraordinary straight-ahead jazz playing ("The Finest Romance," Brubeck's "Blue Rondo"), and other aspects that cross over into areas of jazz, electronic music, classical, world music—you name it. The pieces intertwine intelligently as if they were a Moebius strip.

AAJ: What were the key challenges of this recording effort?

JP: The challenges on this recording encompassed the range from technical to musical to personal. I believe this is part of the process that all musicians inherently face. One is always excited to conquer the many challenges that await a recording artist, but putting yourself out there is not always easy, especially when you know that who you are changes accepted paradigms. And you are not sure how this will be met. In the end, I just had to follow my instincts and use my voice and vision, trusting that a whisper of truth is louder than screaming lies.

One of the challenges of Resonance was creating cohesiveness in the tunes so that they worked from a musical standpoint. It's a fine line between sounding cool and hokey or gimmicky, especially when you know that what you are doing is breaking boundaries down in order to entertain and delight. Everything had to be seen though elegant eyes, which often meant re-recording something or holding off until I knew in my gut it was right. Because of this, the record, which was due out on Labor Day 2008 actually launched in April of 2009. It had to go out right or not at all.


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