Paul Marinaro Not Quite Yet, 2022.
122 Myrtle Records
By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
If you think that Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours is the greatest lonely male romanticist vocal album of all time (with nods to Van’s Astral Weeks and Beck’s Sea Change/Morning Phase), allow me to suggest to you a postmodern addition to that relatively narrow concept genre.
Paul Marinaro’s Not Quite Yet, released in 2022, has been reissued on vinyl with the inclusion of two bonus songs featuring his arranger and co-artist Mike Allemana on guitar. While Not Quite Yet is Marinaro’s personal opus, the album is as much Allemana’s to admire, with the guitarist playing a prominent role throughout.
Like In the Wee Small Hours, Not Quite Yet represents the man as a traveler down Lonely Avenue, but not for a lack of trying. The thematic transparency of Marinaro’s song choices, though, is mitigated by Allemana’s varying arrangements that provide a musical chocolate box of flavors. That and the inclusion of two David Bowie numbers (which served as a precursor to Marinaro’s recent Bowie Project) lift what could have been a mundane gathering of tragically romantic narratives into contemporary art. The two bonus cuts, austere as they are, do not minimize the effect—Marinaro and Allemana are great musical partners.
Essentially, this is a Marinaro/Allemana album that is layered with the participation of some of Chicago’s finest, from a well-selected orchestra to a string ensemble. Marinaro proves capable of working within everything Allemena organizes.
Recorded expertly by Matthieu Lejeune, the music, even from my computer’s .wav files, rings with sonic and emotional clarity. Thus, a carefully pressed vinyl rendition on a quality sound system should be outstanding. The orchestra numbers are sensitively mixed to shine brightly on the formidable cast, including Tom Vaitsas on keyboards, John Tate on bass, and the wonderful George Fludas on drums (a stellar performance; his solo on “Born to be Blue” is an early album treat), with sparkling contributions from Marques Carrell on trumpet, Chris Madsen on tenor sax, and Greg Ward on alto sax, among others.
When it’s featured, the bigly band delivers, especially on the bouncy “Taking a chance on Love,” the hard swinging “On a Wonderful Day Like Today,” and the best vocal version of “Invitation” I have heard lately (bravo, Paul).
Throughout, Allemana’s arrangements deftly mix tight ensembles with production nuances, sliding the strings into meaningful colorization and dropping individual instrumentation, including his guitar, into the mix to keep things fresh.
It’s no surprise that Allemana’s more ambitious treatments are the Bowie songs, which combine Allemana and the rhythm section with strings and background singers Alyssa Allgood and Sarah Marie Young. “5:15 The Angels Have Gone” borrows the pace and bass/drums presence from the original, with the dramatic tension of Bowie’s original ameliorated a bit by the combination of angular strings, ladies, and flowing guitar. “No Plan (Myrtle Ave. version),” which closes the album, provides no light at the end of the Tunnel of Love, being based on one of Bowie’s final recordings before his unfortunate death. On this record, Allemana’s arrangement delves into something dreamy and slightly discordant, both in the singing and in the instrumentals, adding to the album’s emotional integrity.
As for Allemana himself, he represents with exquisite playing, including his solo on the pop classic “That’s All,” an achievement with sensitive touches of strings that exemplifies what Marinaro can do with great lyrics. The two bonus songs, “Killing Time” and “It’s Sunday,” add to the overall poignancy of the record, featuring just the singer and the guitarist.
With Kurt Elling out and about redefining himself, Paul Marinaro remains as Chicago’s staunch neo-traditionalist, emerging from the past three years as strong as ever. The re-release of Not Quite Yet should cement his place in the upper echelon of the city’s voluminous jazz/pop artists.
Paul Marinaro. Not Quite Yet, Vinyl Reissue, 2023.
Original album (2022)
Paul Marinaro, vocals
Mike Allemana, guitar and arrangements
Tom Vaitsas, piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3
John Tate, bass
George Fludas, drums
KAIA String Quartet
Marques Carroll, trumpet
Chris Madsen, tenor saxophone
Greg Ward, alto saxophone
Rajiv Halim, clarinet
Jim Gallioretto, flute and co-production
Sarah Marie Young and Alyssa Allgood, backup vocals
About Jeff Cebulski
Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org