Tony Marino is a composer and pianist based in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in the United States. His music is rooted in Latin and jazz and he has previously released ten albums, his first being The Latin Jazz Project in 1997. His 2001 album Samba de Say Party combined Brazilian jazz with bolero, swing, tango and funk and this eclectic approach has continued.
2004’s album 5 dealt with varying types of jazz and then after the 2006 album, It’s Not That Complicated, he took a ten year hiatus returning with 101 in 2016. This year has already seen the release of Family and Friends which amalgamates Caribbean and Brazilian styles with jazz.
This album, Tango Silhouette, consists of twelve tracks. As the title implies, it involves a strong element of tango and other Latin styles crossed with jazz. The album was inspired by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla and is an exploration of Tony’s family history.
It starts with Day Break, which gives a good representation of the album as a whole. The sound is largely electronic and synth driven, but with a wide range of instrumental and percussive colour within that framework.
Day Break bursts with energy from the outset, driven by an insistent rhythm and a memorable melody that is first heard on (a synthesized rendition of) guitar, followed by accordion and violin. This is augmented by string synths and colourful bursts of tango-infused piano. The lively percussion and intricate fills are also a feature of the album and add to the infectious energy of the music as a whole.
Second track, Sylvana Gene and Stella Tango Medley is a slightly more mellow track that gives more scope for Tony’s considerable skills as a jazz pianist. His piano part on this piece features large use of expansive arpeggios, which gives the music a strongly melodic feel.
This is counterpointed by a simple but effective melody which alternates between guitar and accordion and various instrumental doublings. The chord changes are somewhat unpredictable but rooted in tango and, as the track progresses, Tony gets to truly display his pianistic skills with some complex runs in the upper register.
Third track Lucia again straddles the midpoint between Latin music and jazz, with this track being notable for its rhythmic complexity. There is a highly effective use of triplets on the snare drum which creates a ‘push and pull’ feeling of tension in the music and it has a strong impact despite its relative brevity at only ninety seconds long.
In The Shadows has a swinging waltz-like rhythm and a brooding, almost ominous sounding melody which leads to some harmonically complex piano and interweaving accordion lines. This is one of the more musically complicated pieces on the album and showcases Tony’s unique skills as a composer and arranger. The intricate contrapuntal lines combined with the exotic harmonic structure and chord changes brought to mind the jazzier moments of Frank Zappa.
The Chancery Place Tango opens with a beautifully haunting melody on accordion in tandem with guitar, which then takes over on piano. Although the music is in standard 4/4 time, the accents are placed on the off beat (known as syncopation) which gives the music a rhythmic fluidity and a restless energy.
Sixth track Astor and Dizzy Tango Medley is one of the most melodically inventive and original pieces, featuring some versatile piano playing wildly exotic melodies that make large leaps in terms of register. The music has a powerful sense of drama and excitement that maintains to the end. The following Circles in much lighter in tone and alternates between 3/4 and 4/4 time, which creates an exhilarating rollercoaster style effect that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat.
A Different Time is also rhythmically angular with diverse rhythmic patterns juxtaposed against each other in a way that creates a pleasing musical tension. The drums on this track are spectacular, with some superb tom tom and snare fills that drive the music forward. Lilting strings and dramatic piano contrast nicely with the violin sections.
The Layback Tango is another fine composition that features some delicious piano playing in octaves, the drums alternating between jazz and the seductive rhythms of Latin American music. The Death of A Romance is one of the darker, more melancholy tracks with a poignant and heart rending descending melody that becomes a recurring motif. This is alternated with dramatic piano and accordion sections, bolstered by a rolling baseline that maintains the saturnine mood.
By contrast, The Philly Tango Astronomical Medley is much more light hearted in tone, rhythmically very crisp and played staccato with some effective use of percussion. You can imagine a couple strutting across the dancefloor to this piece and it also features a beautiful guitar and accordion passage in the middle.
The album ends with That’s It, a wonderful composition that lies halfway between classical and jazz. It starts off with a superbly composed (and performed) piano introduction before taking off into a restless tango rhythm, which provides the bedrock for a series of exotic instrumentation and rich harmony. The music flourishes with an irresistible momentum here and makes it the perfect way to bring the album’s journey to a satisfying close.
Overall, this is a very fine collection of instrumentals that are based in Latin American music and jazz but are fused together in a way so as to become wholly original. The difficulty of forging your own unique musical style is something most artists never achieve, but Tony Marino can lay claim to an exotic style of his own that will appeal to discerning music fans in general.