Too many records front-load the best material in the first three or four tracks and then drop in the filler during the middle to the end. Not here. There is not a moment on the album, “Cold Pizza”, which seems phoned in. Long-time composer, pianist, and bandleader, Tony Marino is one of the few men still proudly standing, and playing this kind of richly flavored, Latin-influenced jazz, and he’s pretty much cornered the market, and impressed the industry over the years. In a time when many of the major players of the era have disappeared into dark little corners, keyboardist Tony Marino not only keeps grinding away, he’s doubling down. This is clear on his latest 10-track release.
All throughout “Cold Pizza”, Tony Marino has leaned further toward creating funky rhythms the listener can groove to, while at the same time successfully managing to be energetic, thoughtful, variegated and spontaneous. Marino displays laudable song craft and impeccable musicianship, while making an overt effort to be a comprehensible storyteller. This latter element being an extraordinary feat, considering the music is wholly instrumental.
Tony Marino has dedicated the album “Cold Pizza”, to family and friends who have showed kindness to him over his lifetime. Each song is concerned with experiences and sentiments that have enriched Marino’s life through the years. Over and above the anecdotes that propel the song narratives, the album remains stunningly accomplished in execution, and is another impressive musical addition to Marino’s discography. It provides further validation of the artist’s skillset, if anyone stills needs convincing.
The album kicks off with an almost fusion-type groove on the title track “Cold Pizza”, which shows off the tightness of the ensemble as a whole, with Marino’s electric piano and arranging skills leading the way. This leads to the quick-stepping, “Hang In There”, which is dedicated to all the people that have given Marino this piece of advice during the many struggles shared at work, school, sicknesses and simply getting through life in general.
Tony Marino switches the template on the reggae-infused “In a Jam”, which is inspired by musician’s honeymoon experience in Jamaica. This is dedicated to his wife. One day they decided to leave the resort on their own and had some trouble finding their way back. Up next is the stripped downtempo ballad, “Ellie”, which is dedicated to Marino’s wife’s grandmother, Domenica “Ellie” Zinni, described as “One of the most thoughtful and wonderful people that God put on our planet. Missed by all that knew her.”
Things pick up brightly with the up-tempo energy of “Strut Your Stuff”, a Frevo-styled groove dedicated to everyone who worked hard and in spite of their circumstances, accomplished their goals. “Strictly Business” keeps the momentum going, with Marino laying down some inspiring keyboard runs. The song is dedicated to all the great people that Marino worked with over the years, who put their differences and problems aside to accomplish a task. The narrative perfectly ties in with the song that preceded it.
As can be gauged by the title, “Taco Tuesday” is dedicated to friends who met on Tuesdays to eat tacos, while Marino lived in the Santa Barbara area. The song rides on an easy-flowing rhythm that captivates the senses with the interplay of horns and piano. The bebop swing of “A-Bop-Te” is a composition dedicated to Marino’s friend Greg Abate, which unfolds some sweet harmonies and tasty improvisation from the soloists, showing off their virtuosity.
“Conversations” harbors a head-nodding, mid-tempo, Tango-influenced beat, within a song dedicated to everyone willing to discuss differences of opinions and maintain respect before, during, and after the conversation. Closing the album is the blues-flavored “C Side Blues” which is dedicated to all of the people that Marino played with at SOHO in Santa Barbara. Unsurprisingly stellar, and carefully manicured, this album delivers flawless performances from Tony Marino and his crew.
Tony Marino’s compositions on “Cold Pizza”, evoke all of the great elements in his musical canon, without the need for him to even break sweat. The joy of his playing is palpable, hence the album cooks!