Tony Marino – Original Piano Pieces

 Tony Marino – Original Piano Pieces

Tony Marino – Original Piano Pieces – Album Sampler/Singles Review

My-oh-my how the world has changed since the last time I reviewed Tony’s music, which was way back when in the first half of 2020 with the album Que Pasa.  He was on quite the streak of creativity around that time…we’d reviewed records like Tango Silhouette & Family And Friends the year before, and for what it’s worth, it seems like he kept his rate of production going strong from there too with a couple records released in 2021 & 2022 as well.  Starting his year off with a brand-new record called Original Piano Pieces that is out and available online now – I’ve got a handful of the tracks here to tell ya about.

“Good Morning” opens up the record with an interesting track that’s a little on the risky side.  I still give folks the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ve got a longer attention span than we’re told that they do these days…and if I’m right about that, it could potentially come in handy here.  “Good Morning” starts out a bit on the spare-side of sound through its first thirty-seconds or so, and eventually launches into some pretty compelling & fairly progressive terrain.  There’s uniqueness here, and I personally appreciate that.  The performance is solid, bold, confident and unafraid to veer off in different ways than most people would expect, and Tony uses space to his advantage.  For the people out there that dig their piano tunes, I can’t imagine anything here wouldn’t be enticing…it’s more the people that don’t that I’d be more worried about…Marino’s definitely catering to a narrower slice of the audience overall out there, but as long as he’s comfortable with that, I say right on.  “Good Morning” continues to get more engaging as it plays, and yeah…if you’re a fan of piano-based tunes like I am, this opening works.

“Tangoed Up With You” has that dramatic flair you’d wanna find inside a good tango-based tune, and also offers a lighter-side to its sound too as it heads towards the mid-point.  While I’m personally more of a fan of the lower-tones and drama-filled side of this song, I like that this second cut from the record has a bit more tangible technique to it, and generally feels more like a complete track than perhaps the opening tune did.  When Marino’s at his best, you can hear how passion genuinely plays a significant role in the way he plays…and every time you hear those low notes bounce through your speakers on “Tangoed Up With You,” it’s like we can all hear the connection he has to the music.  Dig the melodic sweetness he brings to the melody on the surface as well…I suppose it’s really just the one section in the middle between the forty-eight second mark and a minute & five that threw me a little, but I’d imagine there are others out there could possibly enjoy that particular spot the most.  The bottom line, is that the writing & structure offer us all more throughout the twists & turns of “Tangoed Up With You” and that’s a positive.  Like I was tellin’ ya, it feels like a much more complete experience than the opener did.

Variation can be a wonderful thing…and repetition can be its natural enemy.  Like the rhythmic aspect of “What A Beautiful Day” and how this song started…I wasn’t all that sure about it.  I knew I loved the top-line melody & the free-wheeling creativity Tony was bringing to that…there’s some absolutely fantastic stuff goin’ on in this tune, paired with what’s probably a bit too repetitive for myself personally.  I don’t know that we’re all gonna hear this song the same way…to me, what’s happening on the surface is so stellar & creative that it should be enough of a draw to keep people listening and engaged…but similarly to “Tangoed Up With You,” Tony will take you for a departure around the forty-ish second mark through the twists and turns of a mid-section that doesn’t seem to quite reach that same level of magic or spark to it.  Again, I appreciate the intentions of the variation and breaking things up a bit – but I do also recognize that, were Marino to have simply gone with the top-level of melody and jazzier style you find on the surface, I’d have readily listened to him playing this song for ten minutes, and never complained.  I suppose if anything, it almost sounds like Tony’s trying to thread two ideas together here that might have been better served as individual tunes…sometimes I liked the two bookends the best, and other times I listened, I found myself enjoying the mid-section of this song more than the surrounding parts.

“Bopping Around” is likely one of the more straightforward & familiar tracks you’ll find on Tony’s new record, but there’s no arguing with execution that works.  He’s got his low-end rhythm movin’ & groovin’ and he’s got his top-end melody sparkling & shining on the surface.  In the tiny timeframe of just 1:41, he’s put the magic into this track in a way I think will be universally appreciated…I mean…let’s be real here, he’s working with a much more traditional vibe that’s tried, tested & true.  “Bopping Around” is still one of his own tunes, yes – but it’s got that much more familiar type of sound to it that’ll almost have you wondering if you have heard it before somewhere in your travels.  There might arguably be less identity in something like that, but there’s also a degree of comfort offered to our listening ears as well.  In any event, Tony plays this track with all the passion you wanna find in your piano tunes, and gives “Bopping Around” a jazzy melody that’s bound to be a fan favorite for certain.

At a more robust 3:10 with lower-than-low tones leading the way throughout the majority of what we hear, I think “On Hold” has the strongest chance of making a lasting impression on ya.  While there’s a certain amount of repetition in the rhythm to be found once again, Tony’s got that balanced out by really making the most of the lead, and all-around he’s found an idea here that accentuates his creativity and uniqueness more-so than what we’ve heard so far.  With a tangible weight to it, “On Hold” has a solid mix of dramatic elements and sound to it…you can feel how this track is designed to be noticed.  It’s always going to be a tougher sell to the masses outside of the piano-realm & all, but that’s the uphill battle that comes along with the territory.  “On Hold” comes straight out of the gate with a vibe that you can feel and sound that’ll keep you as interested as entertained…and you can’t really ask too much more than that now can you?  Technique-wise, Marino flashes a whole lot of skill in this tune along the way as well, but more-so than anything else, I think this low-down idea is what stands out the most to our ears.

Personally, I wonder what it might be like to experience Tony’s music with just the lead and not the rhythm added in as well…there’s a part of me that thinks he could potentially be even more effective if he was left to just the one half of his piano duties, giving that ingenuity he brings to his music the ability to expand even further.  It’s hard to say definitively, and this is just me thinking out loud here…but that’s been by far the most successful side of each and every one of these songs I’ve been listening to, up to & including “Dad’s Mustang” as well.  Don’t get it twisted & don’t get me wrong, there are points that things make a whole lot of sense and intersect in a way where you’ll find yourself appreciating both of each song’s main halves…but yeah…just wondering what a force he could be if he was a little less encumbered with other responsibilities, that’s all.  I suppose it’s a roundabout way of saying that the main uniqueness he generates is always found in the lead…and that’s where you’ll find he’s got his foot on the gas in a track like “Dad’s Mustang” as well.  The rhythm parts he’s coming up with don’t bring his tunes to a complete stop, but you have to wonder if they’re almost like the parachute trailing behind him, making it so that he can’t go the distance he would otherwise.  Anyhow…to recap…to be crystal clear – I think Marino’s got incredible things for you to listen to in every lead part I’ve heard so far on this new album of his…that’s the positive.  As for the rhythm aspect of his tunes, I think there’s either a little work to be done in terms of how to raise the level of creativity we find there, or perhaps more of an opportunity for the lead to shine by just being on its own…and if I was Tony, I’d experiment with all that.  “Dad’s Mustang” is about as close as I’ve heard to both main halves being on a fairly equal billing, but it still seems to be a noticeable, and measurable, distance.  It definitely takes superb skill in the musicianship to do what he’s doing though, don’t mistake that…he’s almost playing two songs in each experience when it comes right down to it, and believe me when I tell ya that would be no easy task.  He’s got the talent, now it’s just about the refining of the material to make sure that each moment we hear stands out as much as it should.  The lead parts he’s been writing and performing are perfection, every time – so now it’s time to ask himself whether the parts he chooses to surround the lead with are truly adding…because if they’re not a positive to the song, they’d potentially be a minus in that regard.  I’ll put it this way…in the case of “Dad’s Mustang,” it’s probably the rhythm we’d remember as the hook – but like I’ve been trying to explain…does he want that as the main memorable aspect of what he’s created here, or would he prefer that we all come out with agreeing how incredible the lead melody is?

“Cardinal Drive” is a quaint & humble little ditty…I’ve got no major objections to it beyond that which I’ve already cited along the way regarding the songs on this record.  Tony’s always got a remarkable amount of creativity and technique on display that makes his melodies excellent to listen to…and all I’ve been advocating for throughout this review is as much access to that as we can get as listeners on the other side of the piano.  He’s knows what makes a hook work though…and it’s all up to him in terms of what he wants us to hear…I think he’s got a special & endearing melody written into the heart of what we find on “Cardinal Drive.”  I might even experiment a little by having the rhythm sections of his piano turned down a tiny bit compared to the lead to make the emphasis of his music land in the right place a bit more than it does…but of course that would require recording everything at least a couple of times, and that might increase the length of his creative process overall too.  To be fair to him, as you tick past a spot like the ninety-second mark of “Cardinal Drive,” you can hear how effective both sides of the melody & rhythm can be when they link up and deliver in a unified way with a short pause and whatnot – I dunno y’all…my opinions are the same as they’ve ever been, you can take’em or you can leave’em.  I’m hearing the possibility and potential for Tony to expand his ideas even further if he wants to go that route, and I think dropping his tunes down to just the lead could really be the answer in that respect.  The question becomes, would it all still sound like Tony Marino if he did?  Ultimately, only he might know the answer to that, or whether that would be worth his time to explore…it might take his rate of production from two records a year down to one…but in terms of the repeat-worthy nature of his songs, doing that could increase the quality of his ideas even further, and expand his audience that much more.

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