Cover Art: "New Road" (1930 by Grant Wood
REVIEWED BY: Andrew Janak
Recognized as as saxophonist and composer, some of Andrew’s compositions have been performed/recorded by groups around the United States including the UNL Jazz Orchestra with Victor Lewis, DePaul Jazz Ensemble with Randy Brecker, Bob Lark's Alumni Big Band and the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra.
Dave Pietro-New Road: Iowa Memoirs
by Andrew Janak
Dave Pietro’s solo albums often are united by a common theme that runs throughout them; 2008’s Chakra Suite featured musical representation of the seven chakras of Hinduism and 2004’s Embrace: Impressions of Brazil illustrated Pietro’s experiences studying Brazilian music and visiting the country. Pietro’s newest album New Road: Iowa Memories was inspired by his visit a land slightly less exotic than Brazil: Iowa. The New York-based Pietro was struck by the serenity of the plains and the welcoming people he met while working as an artist-in-residence at the University of Iowa and decided to document his journey through music. Despite using just a five-piece ensemble throughout the album, Pietro creates unique colors in his compositions blending his multiple woodwinds with Alex Sipiagin’s trumpet and flugelhorn, both in homophony and in counterpoint.
“Sunrise on a Muscatine Highway” depicts the countryside between Iowa City and Muscatine that Pietro drove through while giving educational workshops. The track opens with a sparse and harmonically ambiguous piano introduction before Pietro’s soft alto saxophone enters with a brooding melody. Eventually the tune transitions into a floating straight eighth 11/4 groove (alternating measures of 6/4 and 5/4) with the alto and trumpet playing the melody in imitation and counterpoint. Pietro’s alto solo is rhapsodic, a master class in patience. After building up into virtuosic double time runs, Pietro is joined by Sipiagin in an interlude leading to Gary Versace’s piano solo. Versace plays with spunk and constantly engages in rhythmic conversion with drummer Jonathan Blake. The piece then winds down with Versace’s misterioso piano introduction from the beginning of the tune, bookending the composition perfectly.
“Heartland” is a composition depicting the joy and warmth of the people Pietro met during his time in Iowa and begins with a pop-influenced piano introduction before moving into an ebullient straight eighth note groove. Versace’s left hand piano and Johannes Weidenmueller’s bass act as a counterpoint to Pietro and Sipiagin throughout the head. Both Sipiagin and Pietro improvise in a bluesier manner than on some of the previous tracks, also mixing in their trademark virtuosity tastefully throughout their solos. Blake’s drum solo over a vamp leads into a recap of the melody and some dynamic collective improvisation and trading by Pietro and Sipiagin.
A moving performance of Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F at the University of Iowa inspired Pietro to compose “Travel Guide – Part 1” and “Travel Guide – Part 2,” with the melodies of the tunes made up of material from the second movement of Ravel’s piece. “Part 1” features some of Pietro’s most ambitious writing on the record paring his flute with Sipiagin’s flugelhorn to create a bright but not overpowering timbre. Pietro proves himself to be an equally adept improviser on flute as he is on saxophone, showing no signs of being encumbered by the change in instrument. “Part 2” finds Pietro on soprano sax often in counterpoint to Sipiagin on the melody. Freely moving between duple and triple subdivisions (6/8 and 3/4), “Part 2” is more driving than its laid-back predecessor and showcases Pietro, Sipiagin and Versace on extended improvisations. Pietro’s soprano in particular is agitated with fast flurries of notes and Sipiagin once again shows why he is one of the great trumpet virtuosos in jazz with polished runs throughout the entire range of the horn.
Dave Pietro’s New Road: Iowa Memories is simply one of the finest new jazz releases this reviewer has heard this year. Packed with top-notch writing, arranging and improvising, New Road is perhaps Pietro’s strongest recording in a discography full of great albums.-AJ