Pete Malinverni – What’s on your Playlist?

September 5, 2017

Since coming to New York in 1981, pianist/composer/educator Pete Malinverni has established himself as a highly respected presence on the international jazz scene. He’s performed or recorded with a wide range of jazz luminaries including Joe Lovano, Mel Lewis, Charles Davis, Vernel Fournier, and many others.

A composer of great depth, passion, and individuality, Malinverni has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Symphony Space, and the Meet the Composer Foundation. For 18 years Malinverni served as church musician at the Defoe Street Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, exposing him to the music of the African-American church, and his suites for gospel choir and jazz ensemble based on the Psalms of David demonstrate his abilities as a composer on a grander scale. A native of Niagara Falls, New York, Malinverni serves as head of Jazz studies at Purchase Conservatory.

He has recorded 13 albums as a leader – the most recent of which, Heaven, demonstrates that he is one of the top pianists of our time. Featuring Malinverni with bassist Ben Allison and drummer Akira Tana along with special guests Jon Faddis, Karrin Allyson, and Steve Wilson, the recording is both joyful and transcendent.

1. Herbie Nichols – The Complete Blue Note Recordings

The first time I heard the Blue Note sides, I was taken (and still am!) by several things. Herbie’s Teddy Wilson-esque touch in the service of bebop-inflected lines has been a continuing source of inspiration, as have his catchy compositions with their irresistible “sideways” sound. And, I love Herbie’s use of the drum set as an integral part of the compositions.

2. Thelonious Monk – Monk Plays Ellington

Originally conceived to bring Monk’s playing to the “masses” by way of having him interpret the music of the already “acceptable” Ellington, I think this recording reveals Monk for the traditionalist he always was. So much of his playing is reminiscent of Duke’s, and I appreciate the attention he pays here (and always) to the original melodies of tunes when he plays standards.

3. Bud Powell – Portrait of Thelonious

Capturing the trio Bud played with during his time in Paris, with Pierre Michelot and Kenny Clarke, this is a wonderful recording of an alert, swinging and adventurous Bud Powell. I especially love his intro on “There Will Never Be Another You.”

4. Andrew HillPoint of Departure

I love how Andrew Hill did what we, as musicians, are called to do; he assimilated the work of his predecessors, such as Tatum, Bud, Monk and others, and yet found a voice that is immediately recognizable. The headlong approach of this music is courageous on the part of the players and exhilarating for the listener.

5. Phoebe Snow – Phoebe Snow

I first heard this recording in high school and it had a strong impact on me. Not only was Phoebe a great singer and songwriter, but the arrangements here are fantastic, too. This recording marked the first time I heard Teddy Wilson and Zoot Sims, both of whom are featured soloists. It’s a great example of how popular music can absolutely be good music, too.

6. Miles Davis – Milestones

My favorite of Miles’ groups, this recording captures the great rhythm section of Red Garland, Paul Chambers and “Philly” Joe Jones. They play differently for each soloist, and when it’s just the trio they go into a subtle “overdrive” that only a well-oiled machine can approach. I especially like the confidence and savvy Miles shows in giving the trio an entire selection (Billy Boy) on “his” recording.

7. Ahmad Jamal – But Not For Me

While I’d previously been a fan of Ahmad, playing with Vernel Fournier for a number of years hipped me to what was going on in the trio as it relates to form. While some of the tunes could be lengthy, there is always the feeling that the music, surprising as it is, was organized, offered intentionally. By the way, Miles famously brought his group several times to hear Ahmad and it was his arrangement of “Billy Boy” that Red plays on the previous album listed here.

8. Sly and the Family Stone – Fresh

Some things I liked when I was younger now sound dated to me. Not Sly. The infectious funk and the great tunes still knock me out today, as does the overall positive message of this racially mixed band (still rare in those days). While I like all the band’s recordings, this one is special for the loose feel it has. It was around the time of this album’s release that I saw the band live, and it was that easygoing feel amidst incredible funkiness that drew me to it and, perhaps, prepared my ears for jazz.

9. Shirley Horn – Here’s to Life

This recording is a monument, not only to Shirley’s artistry as a singer and pianist, but to the arranging skills of Johnny Mandel as well. I can listen, rapt, for a long time to Shirley sing, and get a chill every time, hearing her breathe audibly between phrases.

10. Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers – Complete Specialty Recordings

Sam Cooke stands as a testament to the fact that real music, whether sacred or secular, comes from deep inside us – that place some would call the “soul.” From his work with the Soul Stirrers to his pop career, Sam Cooke always sounded to me like a rare and wonderful mix of Saturday night and Sunday morning.

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