Marco Pignataro’s “Almas Antiguas” explores personal and musical heritages


Saxophonist Marco Pignataro’s new album “Almas Antiguas” is a lesson in the various stylings that can influence a single album. Pignataro looks to his Italian father’s and Puerto Rican mother’s heritages to inspire him. A self-described “son of Bologna, Italy,” Pignataro moved to the United States in 1991. The 11 songs on the album are arranged to tell a story of love. Added to that is the desire to shape songs based on Pignataro’s understanding of hardcore US jazz.

But it isn’t just American jazz that takes center stage on this album. In the process of presenting these unique songs, Pignataro also delves into the Pan-American and Pan-Mediterranean strains of jazz expression. Of this, his second album Pignataro says, “To me, “Almas Antiguas” reflects a romantic idea of reconnecting with things, or people, or places from another life, not necessarily in a rational way.”

The album’s title is translated to “old souls.” The recording is Pignataro’s second album. Pignataro further explains, “This CD is about roots from the Mediterranean, and how jazz can become this lens that absorbs all these different colors, through which you can create a new sound and bring out your cultural identity.”

Pignataro is joined on the album by Adam Cruz on drums, Alan Pasqua on piano, Eddie Gomez on bass and George Garzone on tenor sax. Pignataro’s approach to his saxophone lines on “Almas Antiguas” is to use the instrument as if it were the metal shape of a human voice.

Songs of note on this album include the title track and “Panarea.” Each represents the stylistic and historical turns that Pignataro wants to explore.

“Panarea” by Marco Pignataro

The unexpected soundscape is created by the lonely and poignant notes of the saxophone. The heavy shimmer of percussion washes in and listeners are at once set up to experience a certain type of melancholy tone. However, that soundscape does not last long. Suddenly, decisive, heavy and percussive beats bang in one at a time. Other instruments begin to fill in the soundscape. And the mood changes. Listeners are thrown off, but engaged, anyway. Already, Pignataro has challenged listeners expectations and the first song has yet to complete. The singular drum beats morph into a danceable beat with a sound that will remind some listeners of world music meets jazz. A twisty motif that is fun to hear.

“Panarea” is a North African and Flamenco-infused song that recalls the Sicilian island of the same name. The “twisty,” light elements are created by a soprano saxophone. Those who are unused to the properties of the instrument will at first mistake the sound of that of a flute or other small woodwind. With interchanges between the soprano and tenor saxophone, the sound takes on the rhythmic patterns of North African and Latin drum cadences.

 “Almas Antiguas” by Marco Pignataro

The title track opens with a bluesy melody that is augmented by a melancholy bass line that sounds as if it is being made by bow work, as opposed to plucked by hand. The drums brush gently in tripping beats as the piano twinkles in the background. A soprano saxophone wraps around everything. The overwhelming sound is cinematic. It reminds listeners of various scenes both imagined and real. And for those going along with Pignataro’s globetrotting, the sound evokes the various lands the saxophonist is inspired by.

The songs that Pignataro presents on “Almas Antiguas” are full of emotion and art. It is one of the most interesting albums of fall 2018.


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