Mario Romano Quartet’s VALENTINA: CD review by Stanley Fefferman

Tuesday, November 16, 2010.

Mario Romano and his crew on this very listenable album show deep musical roots. Tunes written in the 40’s and made famous in recordings of the 50’s and 60’s. Solid bop arrangements by Mario himself, who is at home with Miles, and Coltrane, Dizzy and Bill Evans. Mario’s own style at the keyboard owes a lot to McCoy Tyner’s vocal approach to soloing that comes down through Chick Corea.

It’s a Beatles tune that stops the show for me—a 7 minute take on Lennon/McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood.” Listening to the languid introduction for the first time, you don’t hear the melody coming, so it’s a delightful surprise when the bass-line goes uptempo and Mario’s rich right hand on the keyboard brings in a swinging melody line with some cool complexities and a touch of blue. Very original.

Many of the tracks are ornamented by Latin rhythms. Pat LaBarbera on sax is often breath-taking, if you listen for it. Roberto Occhipinti, who wrote one of the tunes—“Via Romano”— is a pillar of strength throughout the album, and Mark Kelso’s work on the drum-kit is always tasteful. Kristy Cardinal’s pure voice does right by Mario’s own tune “Those Damn I Love Yous.”

The album will repay many listenings. I know. I’ve done it. There is also an inspiring backstory to this CD if you care to search for it. More details on VALENTINA here.

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