Tony Marino – Family And Friends – Album Review
I’ll fully admit, it’s not all that often that original Latin Jazz makes its way to our pages – but that’s what makes every day an audio adventure behind the scenes here at SBS, you just never know what’ll turn up next. First thing I noticed beyond all things was perhaps the noticeable difference in the attitude of the music overall…it’s effervescent, bubbly, bright…and certainly more inviting on many levels than the average rock song on so many levels as well. I started to think about how ‘Jazz isn’t always for everyone’ – and in listening to the invitational sounds of Tony’s opening tune “Family And Friends,” I started to wonder why that statement even exists – we’ve all got some extra time for something like this don’t we? You might just be surprised by how much more you like original Latin Jazz than you think you do. If anything, heck, maybe it’s an over-friendly style of music…but I would still imagine the effect of what Tony creates as being able to turn any bad day into a great one. He creates authentic fun in the music, and the man does it all with exceptional style & skill. I won’t deny there’s a bit of a Price Is Right showcase showdown kind of vibe that comes along inherently with this particular style of music, but that’s hardly the genres fault, or Tony’s either. Bottom line is, warm & sunny tunes like “Family And Friends” as loaded with entertainment, musicianship, and such a unique sound don’t just come along every day…but you’ll hear a tune with energy like this and probably start wishing that’ll change. Flute sounds make a fantastic first impression come to life with extraordinary expression…and there are like…these subtle hop-like sounds that almost give “Family And Friends” a Super Mario Bros. like feel too – but not in a cheesy or overdone way at all…everything really feels like it belongs here in this tune.
And while an invitational sound is definitely a great thing to have on the way in the door into a record like Tony’s got goin’ on here – make no mistake, the man can absolutely back it all up with seriously impressive skills & musicianship. Listen the rubbery walkin’ bass-lines running throughout “Your Bad Self” or how the keys dance the main melodies overtop…it’s all carefully placed & passionately played; I love that you kind of have to assume it’s all painstakingly put together in the recording, but how naturally organic & smooth the whole tune sounds. And like, listen to the impressive switches & transitions along the way…like towards the 3:50 mark, you’ll discover all kinds of wild ideas & breaks that keep Tony’s tunes innovative and interesting. Using smart techniques and stunning ideas in the instrumentation, “Your Bad Self” grooves and moves from part to part, gliding along expertly as it changes throughout. There’s a bit more weight behind this tune…rooted a bit more in Jazz you’ll feel like you’re probably more familiar with, yet still on display here through Tony’s own unique approach, which spectacularly wanders around and takes you willingly with the music at every turn. Great depth to the sound here in my opinion…you get a whole lot of brightness in that opening number and here in the second you can feel a push towards a song with a bit more attitude & low-end working its magic.
At the end of the day, I think half the battle is already won for Tony when it comes right down to it…this is an extremely charming sound he’s working with. I try to imagine someone setting up shop onstage and then laying down a tune like “Sams” and it instantly brings a smile to my face – it would bring one to yours too if you heard it, I promise ya. Because that’s the thing…I’m not unique…my being unfamiliar with original Latin Jazz is probably similar to that of many out there, despite any experience I might have had here – it’s a rarer style of music, but what an uplifting breath of fresh air that can be at the same time! “Sams” is built on colorful, lively, playful, and curious sounds – and even though it’s music that would be likely found well outside of the mainstream…I mean c’mon – this is what universal FUN sounds like in music too ain’t it? So it might not be what you’d find on the radio stations you normally have on or whatever’s normally on your playlist – stretch your comfort zone out a lil’ bit and try something like Tony’s new record…quite honestly I became a lot more addicted to this than I ever thought I’d be. A tune like “Sams” not only takes genuine skill, but genuine interest to pull off – happiness is a tough emotion to convey through music with or without words…to me this whole cut is like a celebration of the pure joy you can find in artistic expressionism through music and like Tony’s having the time of his life doing what he loves. My ears will always fail to understand what more listeners could ever want than an artist that’s this into their material and locked into the vision when it comes to the execution. Certainly ain’t no doubt the man can play – LISTEN to the piano solos in this tune, they’re exquisite.
“Rita We Miss You” slows down the vibe just enough to be noticed, expertly dialing back the energy but not sacrificing a single square inch of the bright-vibes & sounds that have made Tony’s record stand-out so boldly along the way. It’s still identifiable to Tony Marino, I suppose that’s what I’m saying, you feel me? I’ll admit that my original Latin Jazz is probably a lil’ rustier than most – but I don’t know too many out there right now who are doing what he’s doing, especially not doing it as well as he seems to be. Even in the slower setting of “Rita We Miss You” you can hear just how much he’s into the moment and focused on his performance – and the results seem to come out flawlessly engaged and immaculately well-suited to him each and every time. I like that this tune shows a different side of his sound without going too far to do it, if that makes any sense…like “Rita We Miss You” is still a completely cohesive fit to this record even though it doesn’t quite have the pep in its step that a song like “Sams” has. “Rita We Miss You” still has more than enough space to exist & thrive on this album; there’s a good chance it’ll be the more up-tempo tunes that’ll grab your attention on those first spins through, but it’s songs like this one that’ll keep you coming back to listen over time. I mean, we’re talking peaceful, relaxing, chilled-out sounds on “Rita We Miss You” – the kind of song I could loop on repeat and never feel the need to break the pattern…it’s charming, sweet, soul-soothing, and completely enjoyable – a definite highlight for me.
When you listen to the attention to detail in the relationship between instrumentation, between sound & the beat, between movement & space…I mean, that’s what makes an experience like “Hanging With Rosie” so memorable…it’s highly unique and enticing to listen to. Everything in the mix stacks up impressively here on this tune…definitely one of those songs you just want to turn right up and let it fill your headphones from the lefts to the rights; the musicianship is extraordinary, but so are the ideas too. Whether it’s the flute or the piano, marimba or keyboards, the execution of the drums…you’ll hear how it all contributes to this colorful and charismatic journey in sound – again, as skilled as it is genuine fun. Ultimately it comes down to writing, performance, ideas, and the courage to commit to’em all as one; for some, a song like “Hanging With Rosie” will probably be a bit of an oddity or guilty pleasure, for others like me, it’s a full-on adventure in music that has plenty to offer the ears from structure to sound. I love that the creative ambition is right up there with the skill it would take to pull it off – and that’s a huge part of the magic in Tony’s music & on “Hanging With Rosie” I think; a lot of these sounds are so innocent, humble, playful, and sweet, that you often get lost within them for minutes before realizing just how much heart, effort, and talent are being put into everything you’re listening to. It all sneaks up on ya…”Hanging With Rosie” even kind of has its own sneaky sound to illustrate my point at times, contrasted perfectly by the beautiful melodies surrounding it or ear-catching additions to the atmosphere.
“Champ” has got some real legs & energy. I dig it…enough…I think it’s got the toughest spot to fill on the record. I love the hustle & pace, I think the flute gives another memorable melody to this song, and I think there’s really a whole feeling in the atmosphere of this one that pushes the creativity & imagination perhaps even a bit more than ever in effort to keep up with the rambunctious energy & vibe. I was never really on the fence about “Champ” – I still like it a lot, but I did find that both “Hanging With Rosie” and “One For Bill” surrounding it always seemed to make more of a lasting impact on me. Flute sounds and piano…the assembly & structure…it’s all jaw-dropping stuff and played with such passion and intensity that you GOTTA get right into this…like I mean you literally can’t help yourself, you’ll get pulled right into the wild melody that soars throughout this tune and the smart layers of instrumentation that create it all. “Champ” flies by quickly as one of the shorter tunes on the album, but Tony makes sure to make a maximum impact through momentum & movement on this tinier track.
Great percussion ideas that start out the sleek rhythm & melody of “One For Bill” – another wildly successful adventure in sound that you’ll find on Family And Friends. Honestly, I’m continually impressed by just how much I’ve gotten into this record, but it’s track’s like “One For Bill” that have my ears knowing exactly why that is without a single doubt between’em. The choice of sounds…not just what’s being played all the time, but certainly how it’s being played or applied in an effort to serve the overall song and experience that Tony creates…for real, this is actually super cool stuff from beginning to end. I feel a bit similar towards this tune as I did on “Your Bad Self” earlier…it sounds like there’s a little more on the palette for the ears to dig into depth-wise on “One For Bill” – and I’d imagine the intriguing sound & vibe of this song will definitely be enticing to more people out there than just myself. “One For Bill” is fully loaded with fantastic sounds that bounce from the lefts to the rights – it’s inventive, creative, innovative, and artistic…a song that’s unafraid to just let loose for a moment or two before snapping back into its main melody. As a result, this cut ends up shifting through sounds impressively once again, delivering an entire journey through the Latin Jazz world of Tony Marino.
Now because I’m a melody guy, “Waltz For Kristina” was probably a bit more for me than perhaps some of the others. It’s got a real quaint & pleasant vibe to it…and like, listen to moments around the 1:20 mark where Tony takes it from its chill & subtle state to a more direct spoonful of sugar by livening it all up even further. That flute has played a starring role in many of these songs and rightly so, it’s been a solid addition to the sound from song one and it returns for one final complementary melody before the album’s all over. Around the 3:20 mark, I think you get one of the biggest highlights on Tony’s piano-playing as clear as you’ll find it on Family And Friends – he’s right in the spotlight alone for quite some time and he absolutely sounds spectacular, revealing heart, passion, and technique that can’t be denied. For myself personally, I don’t think I could have asked for a better ending, I love every second of “Waltz For Kristina” and think it came out sounding sincerely inspired. It retains that playfulness & heart that’s been on display throughout this album and brings it home in a controlled, professional, yet still wildly entertaining & moving final tune that shifts between groove & melody with ease. That final shift into the sweet sway of the last minute of this song is as powerful as subtle & charming can be – it’s a great moment and it definitely fuels “Waltz For Kristina” with beautiful sound flowing right to the very end.
I’m pretty sure I can say this with 100% confidence…Tony Marino might have just gone and made me a big-big fan of original Latin Jazz music – this whole record was a ton of fun to experience, remarkably lively, boldly charming, impressively skilled, and entirely worth repeating.
Family And Friends comes out officially on January 12th – stay up to-date on the details & find out more about Tony Marino from his official homepage at: https://tonymarino.us