The presumptive title of this release is On The Town
, but in reality it covers more than just the music from that titled 1944 Leonard Bernstein Broadway musical. The ever thoughtful and vivid pianist Pete Malinverni
along with his savvy and accomplished companions bassist Ugonna Okegwo
and drummer Jeff Hamilton
have made this release an oeuvre to New York City as exemplified by the music of Leonard Bernstein which was presented in three well known musicals: On The Town
, Wonderful Town
and West Side Story
, the last of these retold in a 2021 film by Steven Spielberg.
In the delightful and well written liner notes by Pete Malinverni, he details an encounter with Bernstein when he was playing a solo piano gig at a upscale New York eatery. It's one of those "it could only happen in New York " stories and the impact that this meeting had on Malinverni remained with him over the years. One is reminded of the late 50s early 60s TV show "Naked City" which was filmed on location in New York City. The show always ended with the tag line: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is one of them." Now on to this music.
If one is going to release an album that focusses on themes relating to New York, there is probably no more fitting track than "New York New York." This is not the Frank Sinatra
"New York New York," but the one that contains the lyric: " New York New York, a helluva town/the Bronx is up, but the Battery's down." Malinverni skips and dances over the keys to give sense of movement, as Okegwo and Hamilton provide a rhythmic backdrop that shows an agreed sense of musical values. "Somewhere" is from West Side Story
, and the trio establishes a lovely mid-tempo groove with Malinverni always keeping the melody in mind. He never forgets where he is and even as he establishes some intricate improvisations, he is in the moment. "Cool" is from the same production and is propelled along by Okegwo and Hamilton, with the latter taking command with the opening and closing statements. In between, Malinverni ensures that no notes have been wasted either rhythmically, melodically or harmonically.
"It's Love" was written for the 1953 for the musical Wonderful Town
. Although it has been covered by the likes of Lena Horne
, Blossom Dearie
, Marian McPartland
and Bill Charlap
, Malinverni acknowledges that the number is new to him. That may be so, nevertheless he has found the melodic thread that runs through the composition, and his improvisations are based on this connective tissue. Additionally both Okegwo and Hamilton are given plenty of solo space to demonstrate that they are not just participants, but partners who share a common ground of commitment to the process.
The closing track in this session is an original composition from Malinverni entitled " A Night On the Town." This is a perky line that bounces along conveying a sense of movement and is filled with logical ideas and an urbane harmonic framework.
Finally, the session was recorded at the iconic Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and seems to carry the mystique associated with that location.
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.