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Paul Marinaro - Not Quite Yet
Myrtle Records, 2022
Paul Marinaro released his debut recording, Without A Song (Myrtle Records, 2013) shortly after migrating to Chicago from Buffalo, NY, establishing himself in local haunts that include Joe and Wayne Segal’s Jazz Showcase, The Green Mill, Andy’s Jazz Club, and Winter’s Jazz Club. Just as Marinaro was making a name for himself, a litany of circumstances came very near ending things before he fully started. Beginning in 2015, Marinaro was forced to perform less as he address personal issues, including the death of his father and other family members, the sudden end of a long-term relationship, and a near-death experience requiring a year of rehabilitation. And we have not even made it to COVID yet.
Carefully, Marinaro rebuilt his strength and stamina, returning to regular performance in 2019. Since that time, the singer has performed at jazz festivals here and abroad, as well as, enjoyed performing at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, and Konserthuset Stockholm. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing everything to a screeching halt. Never one to remain still, Marinaro began to conceive of his next recording, one that would serve as a personal statement. The singer wanted to reach beyond the Great American Songbook and the warhorses contained therein and quicken a concept that had been percolating with him: something old and new, something compelling and true. The result was the clever, intelligent, and deeply felt Not Quite Yet.
If Without A Song was Marinaro's testing the water with a safe, immediately recognizable repertoire (replete with a personal recording of his late father singing, "That Old Black Magic" over the blissful scratch and crackle of an old record playing), then Not Quite Yet is the singer stepping forth to make a personal artistic statement using a carefully curated selection of songs and arrangments. Recent reportage takes Marinaro to task for overt nods to the elephant in the room (Sinatra) and indulgent arrangments. The cover art for these first two recordings betrays this, both showing a well-dressed Marinaro, tie pulled down. The photo on Without A Song depicts an almost mirthful singer, full of promise while Marinaro on the cover of Not Quite Yet shows the scars and fatigue of the intervening years. Regarding his arrangments, Marinaro knows exactly what he is doing. The singer's overarching goal is to address his life since the release of his first recording, addressing the experiences at a higher more universal level, one music always provides. With plush and often complex arrangments Marinaro makes an artistic statement, not a commercial one. Should the two meet, that would be great. Add to the arrangements, the arranged. Marinaro chooses popular, yet off-the-beaten-path songs, save for the opening "Born To Be Blue" which he punches out against a humid 6/8 time that pops like a finger snap.
Not avoiding the long shadow of Sinatra, Marinaro deftly selects "No One Ever Tells You," "Taking A Chance On Love" and "That's All" for inclusion in his recital themes: life, love, the need for community, and the need for solitude. However, it is well beyond Sinatra where Marinaro impresses. In an interview, Marinaro recounts his recent interest in the late David Bowie, who he admits he wishes he had been more attentive to earlier. On Not Quite Yet, the singer includes two obscure and provocative Bowie compositions: "5:15 The Angels Have Gone" (from Heathen [Columbia, 2002) and "No Plan" (released posthumously on the extended-play release of the same name [Columbia, 2017)). From the latter song, Marinaro chose the recording's title, "Me alone / Nothing to regret / This is no place, but here I am / This is not quite yet...." "5:15 The Angels Have Gone" is a revelation where Marinaro steps from crooner to stylist, interpreting music well beyond the typical jazz recital, and doing so effectively.
Choosing comfortable recording climes, Marinaro assembles his long-time ensemble of guitarist Mike Allemana, pianist Tom Vaitsas and bassist John Tate with the addition of drummer George Fludas. A horn section is present on some tracks, and on other tracks, the Kaia String Quartet provides a lush carpet for the singer. Marinaro, besides being a fine singer with a vision larger than many competitors, has grit resulting from being an unsigned artist building a career with little commercial support. This provides that edge to his baritone range one may hear in his voice, one tempered with his life experiences. Marinaro is heading in an exciting direction. Let's see where he goes.