The Pete Malinverni Trio – Heaven – Saranac Records

The Pete Malinverni Trio – Heaven – Saranac Records 55:48 ****:

A stellar program fit for the constellation

( Pete Malinverni – piano; Ben Allison – bass; Akira Tana – drums; guests: Karrin Allyson – voice track 4; John Faddis – trumpet track 7; Steve Wilson – alto saxophone track 9 )

The use of the word heaven in song titles is fairly ubiquitous, but not so much in jazz album titles. There are two that come readily to mind. Miles Davis’ Seven Steps To Heaven and “Little “ Jimmy Scott’s Heaven. So pianist Pete Malinverni ’s own offering Heaven can look for its own place among these releases and it does so with some effect.

Malinverni’s interest in selecting this word for his release was informed by two events that caused him to reflect on immortality. Firstly the death of his wife in 2012, and secondly a personal health scare, although eventually unfounded, drove an acknowledgement of life’s fragility.

Malinverni and the band jump in with the title track “Heaven” by Duke Ellington which was released in 1968 on the Second Sacred Concert album. The tune swings along nicely as Malinverni  adjusts up at each chorus with Allison offering a deep toned bass solo as Tana delivers snappy drum intervention. Ellington is no stranger to religiously themed music. “Come Sunday”  is from his 1943 suite called Black, Brown and Beige which was written as a tone parallel to the history of the “Negro” in America. John Faddis  joins the trio on muted trumpet, is in exquisite form in a lovingly warm version of the number.

We are familiar with Psalm 23  (The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want). Malinverni says in the liner notes that he has set some of Psalms of King David to music over the years and this is a furtherance of that effort. This original composition is full of drama with big chords and swelling spirit. In a more traditional vein “Shenandoah”  has the vocalist Karrin Allyson showing her gift for a moving simplicity and insight into the lyric.

Alto saxophonist Steve Wilson is added to the mix on “Wade In The Water” and peps up this spiritual with his aggressive playing. The final track is “Ashokan Farewell” written by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason with its antecedents in the folk tradition, and was used as the title theme in the  Ken Burns’ PBS Mini series The Civil War. Malinverni has dressed it up in a very affecting way in a straight forward and meticulous style.

A stellar program fit for the constellation.

TrackList: 
Heaven
Psalm 23
Down In The River To Pray
Shenandoah
Eili,Eili
People, Get Ready
Come Sunday
A City Called Heaven
Wade In The Water
Ashokan Farewell

—Pierre Giroux

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