Metropolitan Jazz Octet

The Bowie Project



iTunes - $9.99

MUSIC REVIEW BY C. Michael Bailey, Wild Mercury Rhythm


Like a melodic fragment, a foretelling leitmotif teasing with more to come, Chicago vocalist Paul Marinaro's recent Not Quite Yet (Myrtle Records, 2022) included two David Bowie compositions: "5:15 The Angels Have Gone" and "No Plan." Inclusion here pushed Marinaro's second studio recording over the top of a creative peak for the singer in preparation for an even greater one. Released a little too close for comfort with respect to the release of Not Quite Yet, the Metropolitan Jazz Octet's The Bowie Project, addresses Bowie from a mainstream jazz perspective.

David Bowie is a compelling artist to assimilate into the jazz universe. His composition and music have a more complex nature than most contemporary popular, making them a natural segue into a jazz treatment. I spent the majority of my music listening paying as much attention to David Bowie as I did Kiss or Alice Cooper, believing these artists as effete gimmicks. One of the greatest gifts that Art, any art, can provide those open to it, is to lead us to other Art, to seek out more information about what we are seeing, hearing, and experiencing. Marinaro's last two projects took me back to listen to Bowie, hearing him anew, an artist so much above gimmick and fad. It is a sad thing to recognize genius 50 years after the fact.

Marinaro felt much the same way. As he recovered from surgery and sat stranded during the COVID-19 shutdown, Marinaro began to think more of Bowie, investigating his music in greater depth. While recording Not Quite Yet, Marinaro began to conceive of a larger project, one employing Chicago's Metropolitan Jazz Octet. Marinaro's two projects were recorded at approximately the same time. The Bowie Project can easily be considered an extension of Marinaro's thinking during his personal and pandemic downtime that led to those first Bowie selections on Not Quite Yet.

On The Bowie Project, Marinaro reprises"5:15 The Angels Have Gone," this time enhanced by the larger Metropolitan Jazz Octet, under the leadership of saxophonist Jim Gailloreto, who also co-produced Not Quite Yet. This type of trans-genre interpretation tests the mettle of the material considered. Bowie's music made this transition at the hands of the multiple people arranging the songs including Gailloreto and his fellow Octet member, John Kornegay, Fred Simon, and John McLean. The Octet can reasonably be considered a "little-big band." The arrangements take advantage of this, beefing up the Octet's sound to a full and robust level.

Marinaro shares equally the stage with the band in this recording. He is revealing himself as something much more than a Sinatra wannabe (though he does favor full-dress suits with a pulled necktie and a five-o'clock shadow). He certainly has the good looks to enhance the visual aspects of this project, but it is his voice that scores the most highly. Marinaro sings with effortless grace, tackling Bowie's often challenging harmonics. Marinaro's voice is both muscular and gentle, capable of creating nuanced shading where necessary. The singer avoids the pitfall in the more popular tunes and too closely following Bowie's phrasing. He is able to transform "A Space Oddity" into a sumptuous ballad while treating "Changes" and "Life on Mars" delicately.

David Bowie's time has come as a cultural deliverer and Paul Marinaro and the Metropolitan Jazz Octet are the artistic visionaries to bring this project to reality. Marinaro has separated himself from the pack of male jazz vocalists, arriving in the forefront...where he belongs.





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