"Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable."
Leonard Bernstein "Music is one of the fairest and most glorious gifts of God."
Martin Luther "Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony?"
Leonardo da Vinci
To most jazz fans, the intimate connection between music and spirituality is simply assumed.
The aspiration of many jazz musicians to place both themselves and their listeners in direct connection with the divine has been well documented over the years, perhaps most notably with John Coltrane whose music was both unabashed praise and ecstatic thanksgiving to a God of grace and love.
Furthermore, many musicians express the feeling, if not outright belief, that they are merely receivers, or antennae, resonating to a voice that originates from something deep yet residing outside of and beyond themselves.
Pianist Pete Malinverni is certainly a musician who feels that inspiration flows through him as opposed to from him.
Since arriving in New York in 1981, Pete Malinverni has established himself as a highly respected performing musician in local, national, and international club and concert scenes. His well deserved reputation helped earn him an entry in the 1999 Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz
, as compiled by Ira Gitler and Leonard Feather. As an educator, he is in great demand, serving as Professor on the Jazz faculties of New York University, William Paterson University, and the Purchase Conservatory. Additionally, he has taught Jazz Appreciation to non-music majors at NYU, and Classical Ear Training at Purchase. In 1999 he was honored with NYU's Marc Crawford Jazz Educator Award, and has successfully presented seminars and master classes worldwide. In recent years he has begun to explore his talents as a writer on music, writing liner notes and contributing to periodicals such as The Piano Stylist and The Record Review. His fifth album, Of One Mind
(Reservoir Music, 2000) was picked by All About Jazz as one of the Ten Best Recordings for 2001.
Pete Maliverni's sixth album as a leader, Autumn in New York
was recently released by Reservoir Music and features longtime companions Dennis Irwin (bass) and Leroy Williams (drums).
Of this recording, AAJ correspondent Elliott Simon writes: 'With this, their fourth CD together, the players have gelled as a unit'this trio's playing from beginning to end shows them to be experienced partners who easily change moods, yielding a cohesive statement overall'By including new arrangements of timeless pieces written by native New Yorkers Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen alongside his original compositions, Malinverni inspires us to look forward while remembering our past.'
In anticipation of the premiere performance of his new suite for gospel choir and jazz quartet, entitled "Sing a New Song," All About Jazz invited Pete Malinverni to participate in the following interview, which he graciously consented to.
The premiere performance of 'Sing a New Song,' Pete Malinverni's new suite for gospel choir and jazz quartet, will be performed on Saturday, May 3 at 2:00 pm, at Devoe Street Baptist Church, 140 Devoe St., Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, NY. Admission is FREE. Further information can be obtained by phoning (718) 387-5075 All About Jazz:
Would you please tell the AAJ readers about where you were born, raised, and what your earliest musical memories are? Pete Malinverni:
I was born in Niagara Falls, NY. At age 7 we moved to a small town near there called Lewiston, but for all intents and purposes I was raised in the Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Western New York region. It's a region which, at the time, was defined by the economic boom provided by the local industries, most of which had to do with the processing of chemicals in all the plants who located there for the cheap hydroelectric power made available by proximity to Niagara Falls. While my Dad and the fathers of most of my friends were employed in these plants, music was valued in the Italian-American heart, so my sister, April, and I were given piano lessons. I was six when I started, with a wonderful and tough teacher named Laura Copia. She's legendary up there, for her excellence in teaching and her passionate and big-hearted dedication to passing on what she knows. I studied classical piano with her until I was eighteen and left for music school. Of course my earliest musical memories revolve mostly around those lessons, but I also remember hearing my Mom sing as soloist in our church choir. It was a Pentecostal church, so I saw early on the easy association of music with the passions of people. AAJ:
What led you to choose piano as instrument of choice? PM:
There was gentleman in our church, Anthony DiGregorio, who led the church in singing every Sunday. Mr. DiGregorio had a friend who was looking to place his grand piano in a good home because he was moving to an apartment the size of which wouldn't accommodate a piano. The match was made, and it changed my life. People don't realize sometimes how large an effect even the seemingly smallest kindnesses can have. Anyway, lessons began right away. AAJ:
How would you describe your musical education? Formal? Informal? Both? Please elaborate. PM:
Certainly my lessons with Miss Copia were formal. We had a lesson each week, rain, shine or snow (a consideration up there in the snow belt). The work was very much European Classical in direction, and Miss Copia also gave me my early theory lessons.
I had a wonderful teacher in high school named Douglas Monroe who also gave me theory lessons, as well as taught me about the beauty of choral music. He was another very strict and passionate musician. As I look back now I see that it's always the teacher who cares enough to be tough who one remembers as having been the most effectual.
From high school I went on to the Crane School of Music in upstate New York. It was there I first heard jazz music, at that time sort of an outlaw form as far as the school was concerned. So my real education in jazz began, on the bandstand with my peers. AAJ:
Was there any watershed moment where you decided (or discovered) that you simply had to become a musician? Please elaborate. PM:
I mentioned Douglas Monroe earlier. During my senior year in high school the director of the concert wind ensemble was interested in performing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," and had plans to hire a soloist. Some of the musicians in that group, like clarinetist Laura Ardan and saxophonist Pat Perez, have gone on to great careers in music, so it was a serious ensemble. Mr. Monroe suggested that I be given the chance as piano soloist, and I took it, with both hands. I suddenly stopped spending all my time down at the gym and began stealing moments during the school day to practice the "Rhapsody." I was determined to learn and memorize it in time for the concert in April, and I did. I still remember the feeling of that accomplishment and of having the whole ensemble with me. I said, "This is for me."