If you have the chance to hear the piano master Marco Marconi play live, you should take the opportunity. You’ll experience superb musicianship and be entertained by this unassuming genius of the piano. If you haven’t yet had that chance, then you just need to listen to New Roads, Live at the Bear Club. As the title suggests, this is an album recorded live at Luton’s Bear Club. Of course, if you have already heard Marconi live, this will just provide a joyful reminder of his energetic virtuosity.
Marconi can be heard in a variety of combos, from solo piano to duos (I heard him in February with New York bassist Mark Wade) and trios – with extras. The international trio at the Bear Club includes Tom Farmer on double bass and Emiliano Caroselli on drums, featuring the tenor sax of Max Ionata.
The live recording is beautifully crafted both musically and acoustically. Featuring a plethora of styles, each arrangement – whether a standard or a Marconi original – is deliciously decadent and yet there is a simplicity that runs throughout. Each musician fits into the collective whole, until they are given their moment to shine individually.
One element of Marconi’s playing that stands out is the classical dexterity mixed with improvision and interpretation of every line. He’s simply a delight to listen to and that carries through across the whole trio, with Ionata’s sax sitting on top when it needs to and other times flowing through the artistic centre.
It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite track on this album, from the energetic start with Mandala through the soulful Lembra de Mim and the studies in bebop that are Charlie Parker’s Ornithology and Dizzy Gillespie’s Be-Bop. However, if pushed to choose, it would be one of Marconi’s own compositions – Nostalgia. This is simply beautiful, with Farmer’s bowed bass acting as a delicate, sombre underlining of the piano’s intricate, quasi-classical exploration of musical memory.
For a sample of what to expect, watch/listen to Mandala here:
Overall, this is an outstanding, international album that highlights some of the best jazz that the UK has to offer.