Tony Marino – Tango Silhouette – Album Review
Well from the looks & sounds of things, Tony Marino is having himself a pretty darn inspired year. With this new record Tango Silhouette in review here, this will be the second time already in 2019 that we’ve had him up on our pages, following our thoughts on his album Family And Friends in early January. Not too shabby no matter what kind of music you’re making out there…it’s impressive to have him back so quickly & definitely a sign that he’s focused on his art & craft, working what must be around the clock on brand-new Tango-tunes for the people to enjoy. Admirable dedication & commitment, at the very least. And according to the notes I’ve got here, Tony’s new project is based around the inspiration of Astor Piazzolla, the legendary Argentine Tango composer, and of course, his family. Call me crazy if you like, I know this is only the second time in reviewing Tony’s music, but I’m starting to sense a theme here…
Proving yet again that when it comes to liner-notes, you really never know what an artist/band will want to include, the anecdote that I’ve got describing the first track on Tony’s new album Tango Silhouette called “Day Break” reads: “This is the first song written for this project.” I mean…far be it from me to criticize being a critic & all…but like…Tony my man…certainly there are more defining attributes to “Day Break” other than sequence, ain’t there? I’m hoping so & I’m sure his fans out there are hoping as well!
Like how about the inviting start & sound it provides the record with? “Day Break” goes on to reveal a compelling mix of mystery & melody, tension & serenity…Tony’s got an excellent grip on how to use the dynamics of this first cut from Tango Silhouette. Love the intricate way this guy plays…you’ll hear a significant amount of moments along the way where his musicianship will impress you in one way or another – and I think a lot of ears out there will appreciate his ability to compose songs that keep you genuinely interested. And keep in mind, this is coming from a guy whom, much like many people I know, literally knows next to nothing about the real depths of the genre…I’ve scratched the surface of Tango-anything at best & a fraction of that would already include Tony’s music; but like I always say, I just know what tends to grab me as a listener & assume that if it works for me, it’ll work for many.
With Tony being the ultimate source-material for a lot of the inspiration & sound of these songs, you’ll find he’s got some medleys on here…but unless you’re real familiar with his catalog or the genre itself, they’ll likely play just like all-new tunes for ya. Like for example, I have no idea what the original forms of the “Sylvana Gene And Stella Tango Medley” would have sounded like beforehand, but I dig what I’m hearing in the combined form of which we find them in now, you feel me? He’s got a catalog of albums that’s already into the double-digits…so for those of you out there familiar with the material, you’ll dig hearing a new combination & second-life for some of your previous favorites; for the rest of us, like I said, this is all-new for us. That being said, it also makes it clear that there’s plenty of tunes from Tony’s career out there & available to listen to…hit up that homepage of his & dive into his twenty-plus years-worth of recordings and find yourself something new…he’ll keep ya busy listening, I promise ya. What I like about “Sylvana Gene And Stella Tango Medley” ends up being a solid representation of what I generally liked about the majority of this album, which is that, Tango-inspired tunes they may be, but these are songs with authentic depth & dimension to them. Exploratory melodies and unique ideas that stack up into memorable experiences worth repeating…that’s what you’ll find all over Tango Silhouette; music that quite often will express a range of sound, emotions, and styles inside of one, just like this medley here does. The result is a whole lot of meat on the bone for ya…the stunning diversity in sound & style, the interesting composition & structure…all this stuff adds up to a really impressive listen.
A track like “Lucia” is bound to turn a few heads out there amongst his peers & fellow musicians, given that he’s written this song in 11/4 timing. I’ll go into this a bit more later on, but I’m always of the mind that an instrumental artist fundamentally has no less to say than a band or artist who uses vocals – they’re just different forms of communicating the message is all. So…consider this…because there could be something being said here – “Lucia” is dedicated to Tony’s maternal grandmother…which makes it an interesting & curious choice as to why he’s gone with such a complex timing signature to create this song. I’d imagine you’d have to be on the inside of Tony’s inner circle to fully know what he might mean by that, or what it might infer – but considering it’s only one of two songs on the album that appear in that structure & format, we kind of have to assume that he might be saying something, or attempting to reveal some kind of additional insight. Whether it’s done on purpose or not, might also be another question…but I’d imagine Tony has got a firm grip on his ideas from the sounds of things and how tight the songs are…he knows what he’s doing – so again, I give him the benefit of the doubt & assume it’s a message within the music of some kind, even if I’m not exactly 100% sure what it could mean. While it might be short, might be complex in its creative design, there’s still an inherent sweetness in “Lucia” that translates gorgeously, while taking us into an exploratory & wonder-filled sound at the same time.
Reading about the inspiration behind “In The Shadows,” Tony provided a bit more information than telling us it was the fourth track on the album. In the notes I have on the album, it read: “This song is dedicated to people who are friends and family members of people who contribute to a person’s success.” And for what it’s worth, it’s a really interesting tune in that sense. I’m…interested in the way the inspiration ends up forming the sound, or if it’s a retroactive thing when it comes to the titles. Best way I can put it, is that, for a song about friends & family…I’d be surprised if people didn’t hear a certain level of mischief or potential malevolence in the music he’s made here the way that I hear it on “In The Shadows.” Now…of course there’s certainly nothing wrong with that – and particularly, I actually really, really love the hypnotic uniqueness of this song on Tony’s record; all I’m saying is that, the pairing of the concept & sound here might actually leave you scratching your head in wonder about what he’s ultimately trying to say or express about these family members & friends of his. Like, if it was a bright & sunny tune, your brain wouldn’t even remotely question the concept behind the music, it would simply accept it – but when the contrast in between the sound & theme are this widespread, it makes you curious and wonder if there’s more being said, or a specific message, underneath the surface here. All this being said, each time I came back to “In The Shadows,” it grew on me more & more; I don’t always need to know the answer to life’s riddles as long as they sound as cool as this song does in the process.
Going back to the points I’ve made on the depth & expression you’ll find in Tony’s music – “The Chancery Place Tango” is straight-up exceptional in just about every way. Love the way the rhythm elements work with the lead on this tune, love that it’s got plenty of contrast between the high-end sounds & low-end vibes…and the flow, transitions, and movement through the entire song seems to just glide flawlessly on a cushion of air. It’s got beauty, it’s got melody, it’s even got a bit of an air of a haunting mystique to it at times…charming all-around really…and equally compelling if I’m being honest with ya. Something in the air & aura of “The Chancery Place Tango” that keeps you admiring the sound just as much as on the edge of your seat at the same time…not sure how he pulls that off, but I dig it; and between this tune and “In The Shadows” just beforehand, he’s building a strong & mysterious mid-section to this record that completely supplies interesting sounds & ideas to the ears consistently. He’s got like…this incredible blend of what sounds like accordion, violin (viola?), piano…just the slightest hint of a beat…a little sparkling guitar perhaps…I’m never 100% sure of which & what ingredients Tony adds into the mix of his ideas, but I feel like I’m somewhere in the ballpark of right – and believe me when I say, everything stacks-up remarkably well on “The Chancery Place Tango” – it’s an exquisite tune, 100%.
“Astor And Dizzy Tango Medley” is another hybrid cut from Tony on Tango Silhouette, this time one that explores the inspiration of two legendary musicians & likely personal heroes of Marino’s, the aforementioned Astor Piazzolla from earlier and the incredible Dizzy Gillespie. If I’m being honest…would I have been able to pick that inspiration up in the music without having the notes & story in front of me? No. To be even more honest with ya, I’m kinda puzzled by this one in the sense that, well, I suppose I’m not entirely sure where the Dizzy-half of the inspiration in the sound would come from or how anyone out there might pick up on that aspect aside from the clues in the title. Dizzy’s famous for his trumpet of course…and there’s no trumpet here…so I suppose it might be something you’ll find closer between the styles of composition perhaps? Perhaps not as well…I’m not quite sure to be truthful…and ultimately, I suppose it’s a somewhat secondary factor if even a factor at all; just because a song may be inspired by a certain musician or instrument doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll find a similar sound in a tribute tune…that’s just what we’d assume & really that’s all there is to it. What I’d probably guess at, is that Tony’s echoing their fearless pioneering sentiment & ambitions, and rising to that challenge of his inspirations to do the same; and as a result, you end up in the thick of a really expressive & unique song on Tango Silhouette with “Astor And Dizzy Tango Medley” that pushes the boundaries of what you might think a Tango experience of any kind might be like in all the right ways. It’s a highly imaginative & extraordinarily creative tune…not gonna lie, probably a harder sell to some than to others with the adventurous spirit you’ll find pumping the heart of this song, but a great listen as far as my ears were concerned. I like things that aren’t typical…and Tony is never going to be typical. This is where that avant-garde Jazz side & boldly-artistic side of this style take the wheel & steer for a moment…and truly, what a wild ride this becomes…it’ll be a bit of an ask for the average listener out there, but for those looking for something uniquely adventurous and impressively creative, here ya go.
“Circles” seems to take over right from where “Astor And Dizzy Tango Medley “ left off and cruises forward with inviting & sweet sound from there, expressive as always & flexing that signature, colorful style that Tony wields so well. He makes really solid moves throughout the pace & melody of “Circles,” unafraid to mix it up & take the sound in defined directions that all have great texture & tone. It fits well back-to-back with “Astor And Dizzy Tango Medley” in the sense that both tunes have a somewhat frantic & restless disposition that is always looking for the next avenue to explore – which again, might make for a bit of an ask of the average set of listening ears, but for others, it’ll be a true sonic journey. I mean, when it comes right down to it, I can promise ya – for what you’d expect anything Tango-related to be or sound like, Tony will continually surprise you with how much he’s been able to do on the inside of that style and how far he’s been able to push both the boundaries of the genre and test his own creativity, especially in songs like “Circles.” Dude always seems to rise to the challenge and commits to his ideas, no matter how subtle or wild, with every fiber of his being…I’ve got a lot of respect for that.
What I’d probably be doing if I was Tony…is I’d be looking at crossing over into the video-gamers area of music, which is growing all the time. Like I mean this in the best of ways…there are going to be tracks that remind you of some of the soundtracks you’d find on the old classic cartridge games of Nintendo & whatnot…”A Different Time” is kind of one of those songs for me. Of course, you’d only get a thirty-second clip on a loop or something in most of those games, so it’s actually quite awesome to be able to see what one of those ideas might be like in a more polished & refined form that allows it to expand into a bigger journey, which again, “A Different Time” will definitely do. Regardless of all that…there’s such an excellent mix of tension & suspense in the air surrounding “A Different Time” – and as innovative as ever, Tony goes exploring the drum kit a lil’ more thoroughly in a large portion of this tune to provide yet even more versatility to the record. Expertly contrasting bright melodies with deeper low-end sounds once again on this tune, everything about this cut firmly stands-out to the ears and keeps you listening intently for whatever it is that might come creeping out of the shadows being cast over your speakers. Definitely one of my personal favorites on the record, “A Different Time” is a really cool tune.
Here’s how easy to love “The Layback Tango” is…I literally had to come back to write about this song. And what I mean by that is, I’d written the entire review before I realized that I hadn’t said a single word about “The Layback Tango” in the process! You’ll get it when you hear it for yourself…there’s something about this track that’s so warm & welcoming, that you just end up chilling out & taking it in…soon enough, you’re forgetting the responsibilities you’ve got, just like I did! So beware…you’ve been warned…”The Layback Tango” is like a summer day on the beach in audible form, practically begging you to stretch out on your couch and melt away an afternoon by basking in the glow on this chilled-out tune. Not even remotely kidding, every time this song came on, it was like break-time in my mind for some reason…I’d space right out here, sitting & listening happily to the quaint & pleasant vibes flowing so fluidly throughout the span of “The Layback Tango.” And I’m just as serious when I say that, even when TRYING to dedicate my time & efforts to writing about this tune while listening to it, I’d STILL get distracted, EVERY single time…it starts with a head-nod or two, and seconds later I seem to have this full chair rocking along with the melody and swaying with the beat. It’s the kind of warmth in sound that you just don’t want to push away at all, no matter what you normally listen to…everything about “The Layback Tango” seems so comforting and pleasant all the time…like if this song was a place, you’d want to move there, know what I mean? Felt like I could stay lost in this tune for days & never complain.
Great chance of “The Death Of A Romance” being a strong candidate for a possible single, or at the very least, it’s another fantastic reason to return to the record…or for the most-part anyhow. Does it go over the top by the very, very end? There’s a possible argument to be made there…it might; the maximum intensity of Tango Silhouette is definitely surging at its peak by the final moments of “The Death Of A Romance.” Regardless, I think he’s got some of his most powerful hooks here on all of Tango Silhouette in what you’d likely consider to be the chorus of “The Death Of A Romance” and another impressive level of tension, suspense, and drama within the music that makes a highly memorable impact. That main piano hook is pretty much pure genius as far as I’m concerned…Tony’s filled that moment with clear passion…I don’t want to say reckless abandon, because I know he considers his moves carefully…but you’ll hear it’s got a true wildness to its spirit; he plays these moments without as much focus on control & more of an inclination to transmit his genuine emotion & feelings in the way he hits those notes with such noticeable strength. And listen to the way it opens with the mysterious low-end groove and sparse cymbal hits ringing out into the atmosphere…it all just makes me want to put my whole face inside the speakers as far as it’ll go just to get as close to this song as possible – loved the execution & ideas on “The Death Of A Romance” overall – I’d probably reign in that ending a little bit, but hey, that’s me, not Tony.
Clever guy! You had me going for a second there Tony, I’ll fully admit it. I saw the title “The Philly Tango Astornomical Medley,” and immediately assumed that he must have meant ‘astronomical’ – but I was of course, totally & completely wrong. In fact I’d say I just got schooled in the art of being a wordsmith, by an instrumental artist no less – so how is YOUR day going? That’s yet another one of the smart & downright brilliant ways that Tony has threaded the inspiration & spirit of Astor Piazzolla into his work. Don’t mistake all these empty coffee cups beside me for anything other than what they are…I’m no more awake than I was before them I suppose – I should have caught that reference immediately instead of question Tony! I know better…but thankfully, you can learn from my hasty mistake and not go down the same road…trust the artist…it’s always much safer to assume they’re in full control the whole time – and Tony most certainly is when it comes to the composing, execution, and performances on his latest album. Absolutely loved the breakdown on “The Philly Astornormical Medley” and the way the piano & beat bring it back in…probably one of my favorite highlights on the entire record really – Tony’s done such an exceptional job of bringing such personality, charm, and charisma to the surface in his tunes on this album. I like how there’s such an impressive range of sound & style here on this record – and ultimately, “The Philly Astornormical Medley” might be one of the best & most cohesive displays of the different extremes between the subtle & intense on Tango Silhouette, coming together, as one.
Tony, Tony, Tony…it’s a good thing us critics & music-types are out there to help describe these tunes of yours brother-man. You ready for the notes I’ve got on the last song called “That’s It” on Tony’s new album dear readers, dear friends? They read: “This is the last song that was written for this project.”
I’m trying to imagine the young Tony Marino, back in his school days…
Teacher: “Tony, it’s your turn to go up and read your book report please.”
Tony: “A book is filled with paper & pages, often with a whole bunch of words on them. You advance the story by flipping sequentially from page number one, henceforth, until you finally reach a thicker paper, often referred to as the cover, found at the very back…”
Teacher: “Tony…it’s not a report on what a book IS…”
Of course I’m just teasing the guy. He’s an instrumental artist! He was born to be a man of few words…and like I said, that’s what the rest of us people that write about music all day long are here for anyway…otherwise, many of us, including myself, might not even exist! Besides…it’s not exactly like I’m any kind of expert in Tango-style music anyhow, so what do I even know? I just know what I like – and I really dig how willing Tony Marino is to experiment with the freedom of creativity and really commit to the wildest of his ideas. “That’s It,” I’d imagine, probably arguably adheres closer to a Tango-esque flavor & sound that people would associate with the genre…but still as adventurous as ever when it comes to how Tony plays this final tune. Absolutely one of the cuts on the record that really captures the vibe & spirit – you feel this one – I’ve been movin’ & groovin’ in my chair while I’ve been writing this up for many of the tunes on Tango Silhouette, but “That’s It” was just about the most reliable cut on the record in that sense, which always made for a solid exit from Tony’s record & a great reason to return. He’s a great guy, a great musician, and he’s done a great job all-around on this latest album.
Find out more about Tony Marino from his official website at: https://tonymarino.us