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Joey Pero: Breaking Sound Barriers

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Perhaps the most incredible performance on the CD is Pero's performance of the Bach Partita no. 2, BMV1006 "Preludio." The piece was written by J. S. Bach in 1720 for violin. Prior to its inclusion on Resonance, the selection had never been performed or recorded on trumpet. Thus Pero, who took over a year to perfect the intricate tonguing and articulation required in the piece—not to mention the "circular breathing" needed to play extremely lengthy lines—was making trumpet performance history. Mendez, Andre, Nakariakov, Marsalis, Vizzutti: none of these great masters in the classical trumpet pantheon, to a man, have ever attempted this.

Here is Pero in an impromptu solo performance of "Partita."

AAJ: The "Partita"—a challenge and a performance breakthrough, yes?

JP: The "Partita"'s biggest challenge was overcoming the fear of playing something never done on a brass instrument. Once I got past that, it was all good. Of course, playing the live version posed a whole new set of fears that I deal with day to day. It's the kind of piece where anything could happen, and certainly will be a lifelong love of mine. When Charles (Ressler), Peter Fish (co-producer), and I were creating the concepts for the record, I went to see Wynton Marsalis to ask his advice. One of the things he told me that evening was to record the hardest piece first. So, we did "Partita" first in a giant room with 15 to 17 mics ranging in distance and height. Talk about a daunting first recording. Ultimately it was great advice, and I am really happy with how both "Partita" and the whole record turned out. "Partita" will stay with me through my life and I certainly think at some point I will re-record it when I am older, wiser, and have a different breadth to bring to it.

With such a diverse and challenging "crossover" repertoire to be recorded, Pero and Ressler drew upon the talents of a diverse group of outstanding musicians. Jazz vocal stalwart Freddy Cole sparked "The Finest Romance;" well-known cabaret chanteuse Daryl Sherman is featured on a super funky-hip cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," guitarist Jack Antonoff on the "Arutunian Concerto," Phoebe Snow on "Birth," and percussionist Simon Boyar on "Blue Rondo." All joined forces to make Resonance an exciting, intelligent and musically brilliant recording. With proper exposure, Resonance could easily take its place with the recently-named Grammy nominations.

If recording Resonance in the studio wasn't challenging enough, Pero and Ressler have taken the act and brought it forth into live club concert performances. The preliminary reviews have been outstanding. The group has recently played to rave reviews at two of New York finest rooms, The Metropolitan Room and Feinstein's at Loew's Regency. In the live performance format Pero and crew have, astonishingly, taken Resonance as recorded without any concession to the live venue—an incredible achievement given the musical, orchestral and performance requirements of the selections. In live concert, Pero and the group are even more exciting and high-energy.

In addition, Pero live has an Elvis-like attraction as he performs brilliantly both as a trumpeter and vocalist. He has a fine vocal style, something not showcased on the CD. His incredible talent as a performer is further enhanced by his likeability onstage and overall interplay with both his supporting players and the audience. At the Feinstein's performance, Pero—seemingly like a high-wire artist and with the casualness of a Dean Martin—blew the jazz classic "Cherokee" brilliantly, as he played the classic Clifford Brown solo note-for-note! Standing ovations were almost matter-of-fact given the brilliance of the performance.

AAJ: Resonancethe CD is beautifully engineered and produced—and impeccably performed. How will it differ in live shows, if at all?

Joey Pero with Freddy Cole

JP: For us, it's business as usual. There is a whole other world of fun involved in bringing the music to the live arena. With the voicing of piano, drums, bass, marimba and trumpet, we have a lot of new sounds coming from the bandstand. The main objective isn't to emulate the record, but to enhance and develop it! I do think that ultimately, if you love the record, the live show is even better because there are so many other layers of resonance you can achieve in a live setting.

Charles Ressler: This always cracks me up, because when people see the live show they say to me, "Wow, I had no idea that Joey would be able to play the whole record as it is recorded. It blew me away!" I think to myself, what did they expect? I think the live show is very similar to the record, maybe with a bit more to offer in terms of getting a glimpse into Joey's spirit. Joey's ability to resonate with his audience consistently amazes me. The show is elegant, fun, thought-provoking, engaging, and so much more. It makes you leave feeling really good.


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