Thursday, August 29, 2013

Diane Marino: Loads of Love

M&M Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Loads of Love

You’ve got to hand it to Houston Person. The 78-year-old tenor sax player isn’t merely an icon who has performed professionally for more than four decades, with a discography of almost 80 albums; he also has helped relatively unknown jazz vocalists develop their careers. He assists in a production capacity, and often helps select the backup groups for recording sessions. Such is the case with Diane Marino’s new album, Loads of Love

Marino plays swinging piano, sings up a storm, and is an accomplished arranger. She initially worked solo in New York City jazz clubs, until she met and married bassist Frank Marino. They subsequently worked together, formed the M&M record company and began to release albums; Loads of Love is her fifth. The combo used for this session features Person on 10 of the dozen tracks, which probably will help this album get the attention it deserves.

The backup musicians are excellent. Diane plays grooving piano, and husband Frank is a driving bassist; he lays down a beat that really drives the group. Guitarist George Bergeson and drummer Chris Brown complete the fine rhythm section. Trumpeter George Tidwell guests on one track. As for Diane’s vocal skills, she’s one of the best I’ve heard in the past several years. Her voice and phrasing are great. I suspect she’d sound even better, if she didn’t also need to concentrate on the keyboard.

This set mostly visits the Great American Songbook, with contributions from Cole Porter, Richard Rogers, Duke Ellington, Jimmy McHugh, J. Lerner and Louis Armstrong, along with lesser-heard gems such as “Never Let Me Go” and “I See Your Face Before Me.” 

Diane demonstrates her ability to swing on the album’s opening track, “Get Out of Town.” She does the tune up-tempo, and some very tasty tenor sax work by Person immediately establishes his importance to this session. Add Diane’s well-crafted arrangements, and the resulting album deserves to be called special. This isn’t your usual “support the singer” group; a lot of thought went into creating the charts, so that each instrumentalist can demonstrate his prowess. 

Congratulations to all concerned: If this album doesn’t bring Diane Marino more notoriety, nothing will!

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