Marco Pacassoni approached me with a request to consider me writing about his latest album release Life and what follows is the opening lines of the press release information accompanying the album’s cover artwork:
Marco Pacassoni’s life has been driven by willpower and this eponymous album is the confirmation, the goal he set himself, the dream he always hoped would come true. Ten pieces, of which the last two are free improvisations reveal all his poetics; from the simple complexity of his musical world … to the space left for the music to breathe …Marco Pacassoni
The phrases “simple complexity” and “space left for the music to breathe” caught my attention; would the album meet my understanding of what I read?
‘Times Vibes’ gets the album under way with a gentle introduction to Marco’s vibes playing with the central theme being developed by the trio. The vibe playing is spacious alongside matching bass and drums – the bass and drum break continue that theme even when the vibes drop out. After the break the vibes return with a shift in dynamics that lifts the tune before settling back and into a long fade outro. The album’s title track weaves around a beautifully lyrical musical phrase that very quickly becomes familiar, like an old friend not seen for a while. The changes in tempo and musical intensity are subtle and well placed, the playing controlled and mesmerizing.
‘Marimbass’ starts with a simple bass riff before Marco lays out the melodic line on the marimba. The tune has a nice dance rhythm, warm tones, and well-paced marimba runs that inject the piece with an upbeat feel. I particularly enjoyed the drumming of Antonio Sanchez throughout this number with his tight patterns and shots of sound that help emphasize the more energetic vibe of the tune. I was expecting ‘Valse à Trois’ to have a defined ¾ time signature but the tune is far more intriguing than that. John Patitucci plays some wonderful bass lines around which Marco plays the melody alongside subtle drumming from Antonio. I have played this track several times now and each listening gives me something different to think about.
‘Un Lento Bolero’ (slow Bolero) wears its Spanish/Latin dance theme lightly, but it is present – it is also sedate, and spacious. This is very much what I think Marco means when he talks about “space left for the music to breathe”: the gaps between the notes and phrases are as important as the notes and phrases themselves and helps make this a most enjoyable track. ‘Italian Creativity’ picks up the tempo and makes use of chordal emphasis between melodic lines that I found effective. There is a very good bass and drums section played over a repeating riff from Marco before the melody is picked up again. The tune is very creative and never quite settles on one theme, which makes it an engaging listen.
‘Anita’ is the tune that shows off Marco’s compositional skills in terms of how the melody is constructed. The tune flows effortlessly, like well-written poetry, with nuanced playing from a trio who know how to bring the composition to life and make it sound easy in doing so. The last of the written pieces is ‘Train Trip’ with Marco and John sharing the central theme. This is another example of “simple complexity” that is present through a number of the tracks on the album. There are nice thematic variations on this number and subtle changes in intensity of playing and sound from all three players.
The final two tracks on the album are free improvisations “without set harmonies or pre-established rhythms”. The first of the improvised tracks is anchored by the sumptuous bass lines of John Patitucci around which Marco Pacassoni develops his own theme. ‘Conversations #1’ plays with tempos, which increase and decrease at will, and Antonio Sanchez does a fine job of not allowing the pace to run away with itself and demean the conversation that has just taken place. ‘Conversation #2’ is the more abstract of the final tracks. The use of bowed bass brings a different feel to this “conversation” with its playing of patterns rather than a central melodic theme. Both tracks are an interesting way to finish the album and perhaps are indicative of where this trio might go next.
I have enjoyed reviewing this album and will certainly make time to listen again, particularly to the two ‘Conversations’, which I found fascinating. Marco Pacassoni clearly has a feel for spacious compositions that allow notes to breathe and develop. This is a very good vibes led trio playing well-composed contemporary jazz. The information I received from Marco includes the following line: “The Virtuosity in each piece of music is controlled and intentional, butterflies fluttering in a field rather than frantic flies trapped in a room” – sums it all up really.
Musicians: Marco Pacassoni – vibes & marimba; John Patitucci – acoustic & electric bass; Antonio Sanchez – drums.
Tracklist: 1. Time Vibes. 2. Life. 3. Marimbass. 4. Valse à Trois. 5. Un Lento Bolero. 6. Italian Creativity. 7. Anita. 8. Train Trip. 9. Conversation #1. 10. Conversation #2.
Tracks 1 – 8 composed and arranged by Marco Pacassoni.
Tracks 9 and 10 co-written by Marco Pacassoni, John Patitucci, and Antonio Sanchez.