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Hailing from Chicago, Marcus Persiani has largely managed to escape the limelight, while establishing himself in New York City as an in-demand leader and sideman. The pianist's debut as a leader, Uptown Suite, could be called a manifesto of his considerable and diverse musical abilities, a complete disc of original compositions reflecting a collage of personal experiences.
Throughout, Persiani effortlessly juggles two different ensembles while playing music that explores three main themes: his roots in Chicago; his immersion in the Harlem hard bop scene of New York City; and his extensive experience in Latin music, playing with Mario Bauza.
The pianist starts with the funky "Little Chunky," with its comedic, yet thick and contemporary New York vibe, then shifting directions with another whole band on the Latin-inspired "Basta Ya Bata Blues," complete with congas and montuno. He follows with the funky two-step "Stoney Island," a back-beat blues that pays homage to his Chicago roots.
Persiani is joined by noted Philadelphia-born trumpeter, Duane Eubanks for the majority of the recording. Eubanks and Persiani really light it up with burning solos on the up-tempo "Prairie Style." Saxophonists Grant Langford and Peter Brainen also shine, as they lend their considerable skills soloing throughout the disc.
Uptown Suite is an extremely enjoyable disc. Persiani's deep roots in the bebop and hard bop traditions lend a swinging quality throughout, one that is mostly missing with many releases today. With the contemporary edge to his writing, there will, hopefully, be a sophomore release, as Persiani certainly deserves wider recognition.
Track Listing: Little Chunky; Basta Ya Basta Blues; Stoney Island; Waltz for Carmen Miranda; La Mer Viper; Secrets; Mineret; Prairie Style; Shell Reading.
Personnel: Marcus Persiani: piano; Joseph Lapore: bass (1, 3-5, 7, 8); Grant Langford: tenor and soprano saxophone (1, 3-5, 7, 8); Duane Eubanks: trumpet (1, 3-5, 7, 8); David Gibson: drums (1, 3-5, 7, 8); Peter Brainen: tenor saxphone (2, 6, 9); Brad Jones: bass (2, 6, 9); Tony Rosa: congas and batas (2, 6, 9); Vince Cherico: drums (2, 6, 9).
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.