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Invisible Cities by Pete Malinverni

Perhaps because Pete Malinverni lives in the midst of one of the world’s great cities and earns his living there as a professional musician, he was struck by the concept of Italo Calvino’s book, Invisible Cities. The concept: the fascination with wondrous cities around the world that offer charms only the imagination can grasp, whether real or not. Now Malinverni has applied his own imagination to experience cities of choice in musical, rather than touristic or residential terms. The last time we heard from Malinverni, he was recording his own compositions based upon the Psalms of David with the Devoe Street Baptist Church Choir from Brooklyn on the CD Joyful. Before that, he was recording solo Theme[s] & Variations of song he had written as he combined his interests in jazz and classical music for a comprehensive statement. And of course, Malinverni has recorded several times with his previous trio consisting of Leroy Williams and Dennis Irwin (who is sorely missed after he passed from cancer on March 10, 2008). With Invisible Cities, not only has Malinverni considered a new theme for his talent, but also he has added horns, Tim Hagans’ trumpet and Rich Perry’s saxophone, to alter the texture and force of the group and providing new opportunities for Malinverni to arrange.

As a result, Malinverni’s playing on Invisible Cities often is subsumed into that of his quintet as he sets up a vamp or adds colors behind others when they’re soloing. On the title track, for instance, Malinverni creates the minor-key pattern for "I Love Paris" that sets the beguine-like pattern established by drummer Tom Melito before the two horns come in with the descending lines between the choruses. This is the first chance we have to hear everyone solo, and while Malinverni stirs up the song with agitating minimalistic flurries, Perry calms things down with a mellow statement of long tones and burnished tone. Malinverni includes a few other city-themed standards as well. "Chicago" proceeds as a stroll, relaxed with anticipations of the beat, and once again variations of rhythm by Melito and bassist Ugonna Okegwo, before it settles into long successive solos of matured understatement and Monk-like jabs, in contrast to the brassier, louder versions of the song usually heard. Leonard Bernstein’s "Lonely Town" fits perfectly into the context of the album’s concept with the beauty of its changes and its suggestions of a city at night as darkness covers it and as the richer colors accumulate, particularly as painted again by Perry’s entrancing solo. Interestingly, Malinverni finds similarity between this song and the related song from the same movie, "New York New York" in his introduction. And the last standard, George Gershwin’s "There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York," joyously optimistic, involves the hope and livelihood offered by the cities as migrations into them continued throughout the twentieth century.

However, some of the moodier and more interesting pieces on Invisible Cities are those that Malinverni wrote. Rather than search for one of the many songs written about the city, Malinverni created "New Orleans (Cities and Desire)" as a slow funeral march over Melito’s repetitive cadence, in reverence for the city where jazz was born and in dismay at the near destruction of the city by Hurricane Katrina Still, the city survives, not with clangor but with a whisper, as Hagans’ muted trumpet work keeps the performance hushed and respectful. "Venice (Cities and Memory)" refers to Malinverni’s classical studies as he develops an etude-like theme, flowing and graceful, to recall the city before Hagans plays the theme with open trumpet without embellishment, veering between minor and major key centers as did "I Love Paris." "Istanbul" is a twisting, careening song led by Hagans in melody before it resolves in vivid solos that provide separate perspectives upon the theme. However, the most interesting city of all is the least expected one: Salem, Massachusetts, the setting for The Scarlet Letter. Though Salem offers much more than the setting for that novel, the book itself sets up themes of punishment, the virtues of forgiveness, the nature of sin and justice, banishment and the possibility of expiation. Strangely enough, Malinverni found a way to investigate these themes, or to recall them, musically with his subdued, ruminative work wherein he finds the light in the crushing darkness.

Typically unpredictable and of vast interests, Malinverni now has moved on to his next project, which isn’t related to his Invisible Cities project at all. He will be premiering a new piece, The Good Shepherd, for gospel choir and jazz orchestra. Restlessly creative and unpredictably imaginative, Malinverni does keep his listeners guessing about the nature of his activities as he keeps investigating new avenues for his works.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Pete Malinverni
  • CD Title: Invisible Cities
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Reservoir
  • Tracks: I Love Paris, New Orleans-Cities & Desire, Chicago, Venice-Cities & Memory, Cities & Time, Lonely Town, Istanbul, Salem-Hester Prynne, There’s A Boat Dat’s Leavin’, Soon for New York, A City Called Heaven
  • Musicians: Pete Malinverni (piano), Tim Hagans (trumpet, flugelhorn), Rich Perry (tenor saxophone), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), Tom Melito (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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