Swing Your Thing – Tony Marino (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

We know that Tony Marino is nothing if not versatile. That within the jazz world his music has explored many styles and sounds, not just the Latin jazz with which he is most closely associated.  Swing Your Thing is a new album to kick off a new year, one which takes his Latin style and merges it with the “big band” sound, making for the perfect combination of his deft and unique arrangements and the swing of a full band to drive things along. The album also has some close personal ties in that each song is a dedication to a friend or family member.

Fans of Marino’s work will recognise some of the tunes found here but will also appreciate the new arrangements that they sit within. These are re-imaginings rather than merely re-recordings, so even the most die-hard fan will find much to love here.

Kicking off with the title track, it is clear that even though the term “big band” might suggest a walk down a sonic memory lane, Tony Marino’s take on things is both understated and up to date, the perfect blend of the familiar and the fresh. And within this understated weave of big band beat and boogie, swing and sass, his exquisite piano work remains the focal point.

Matthew’s Samba is a lovely, grooving piece, energetic to the point of being gently euphoric, full of wonderful dynamic changes, busy, brassy and never anything less than addictive and Hoppy zips long in its own unique way, rising up into horn-led crescendos, dropping down into cascades of lulling piano, breaking out neat drum tattoos and softening everything with floating flutes.

And even if either big band sounds or Latin jazz is your thing, the combination of the two and the clever way that Tony Marino joins the dots between them is the real triumph here. The range that it allows, moving from brass salvos and intricate drum beats to cascades of chiming piano and back again are astounding and within it all, Marino’s arrangements are always unpredictable, exciting and hard to second guess.

As always with Tony Marino the album is fantastic. And even if you are not someone for whom, jazz, Latin, piano or big band sounds arena obvious musical destination to head for, Swing Your Thing acts as the perfect first foot into that world. Who knows where such a journey may take you, especially when you have someone as musically astute as Tony Marino as your guide.

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