Pianist Pete Malinverni
's album, On the Town
, is subtitled "Plays Leonard Bernstein," and it's an homage he has wanted to put on record for many yearsever since he met Bernstein in person while performing at an opening-night party for a production of the opera Tosca
at the Met in NYC. Bernstein, he recalls, spent much of the evening hanging around the piano, not with his more celebrated dinner companions. ("Real musicians want to hang out with the band," Malinverni says). And Bernstein was a real musician, one who loved jazz as well as classical music, as Stan Kenton
learned one evening when Bernstein was in the audience for a performance by the Kenton Orchestra of the composer's score for West Side Story.
Afterward, Bernstein approached Kenton and said simply, "My music has never sounded better."
Bernstein's music sounds pretty good here too, thanks to Malinverni's discerning piano and unerring support from his blue-chip rhythm section: bassist Ugonna Okegwo
and drummer Jeff Hamilton
. The musicwith two exceptionsis from Bernstein's Broadway oeuvre (On the Town, West Side Story, Wonderful Town
). The outliers are the endearing "Simple Tune" from Bernstein's "Mass" and "(A Night) on the Town," Malinverni's clever harmonic synthesis of several Bernstein tunes, which rings down the curtain.
Bernstein's uncanny ear for a lovely melody is everywhere present, as on "Lucky to Be Me," "Somewhere," "I Feel Pretty," "Lonely Town," "Some Other Time" and "It's Love," each one given its due with a masterful treatment by the trio. The opener, "New York New York," isn't the familiar paean to the Big Apple by John Kander and Fred Ebb but the ebullient anthem sung by a trio of sailors on one-day leave in On the Town.
Malinverni and his mates give each song their tender love and care, refreshing a series of masterworks in a way that surely would have brought a smile to Bernstein's lips and perhaps a tear or two to his eyes. Malinverni is a superb pianist, and there is simply no rhythm section that could lend more earnest and agreeable support than Okegwo and Hamilton. Blend in music by the incomparable Leonard Bernstein, and what's not to like?
New York New York; Lucky To Be Me; Somewhere; Cool; Simple Song; I Feel Pretty; Lonely Town; Some Other
Time; It's Love; A Night On The Town.