While engaging collections of expertly arranged standards are somewhat of a common go-to for emerging jazz artists, on occasion we’ll be drawn in emotionally by a powerful golden voiced interpreter who draws on standards (and occasional obscurities by legends) to create meaningful and artful narratives that invite us to experience the stories of their lives.
A popular and charismatic presence for years in his hometown of Chicago, Paul Marinaro achieved this nearly a dccade ago on Without A Song – a tribute to both his own musical roots and a tribute to his father’s unfulfilled dream to be a professional singer. Marinaro’s dad would be quite proud of his long-awaited follow-up Not Quite Yet, a masterfully arranged, 14 track journey that draws on Marinaro’s ample skills as an intimate, no holds barred and richly compelling storyteller to, as he says, “address themes and reflect moods that are characteristic of me at this stage.”
Like a lot of romantic-minded singers, everything begins with hoping and searching for love, an array of emotions he expresses winningly on a dreamy rendering of Jobim’s “Someone To Light Up My Life,” the gentle Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields ballad “Remind Me,” a whimsical escape to Ivan Lins’ “The Island” and a soulful, whimsy filled romp declaring that he’s finally “Taking a Chance on Love.” When he gets to the exultation of “On A Wonderful Day Like Today,” we feel and delightfully share in his triumph (and hopefully memories of our own!). He even finds optimism while delivering the heavy lyrics of Mel Torme’s “Born to Be Blue.”
Yet the deeper treasures of Not Quite Yet are the more stark, poetic and philosophical minded renditions of songs where he’s elusively looking for deeper meanings in life. The way he inhabits David Bowie’s haunting, torchy and classically tinged “5:15 The Angels Have Gone” is a true revelation, drawing us into the feelings of isolation, rootlessness and dissonance we’ve been dealing with during this edgy, socio-politically fraught pandemic era. The album title is from another equally hypnotic, posthumously released Bowie piece, “No Plan,” whose lyrics are all about striving to overcome loneliness and confusion but realizing we’re not there yet.
Two other standouts are the charming samba “Searching (E Luxo So)” (the one song featuring Marinaro’s own introspective lyrics) and the poetic, gorgeously nostalgic Stephen Sondheim tune “I Remember.” Talking about the project, Marinaro is quoted as saying, “When my guitarist and arranger Mike Allemana sat down with these songs, our initial feeling was, ‘How do you sing about life and love when the world is upside down?’ As it turns out, quite beautifully!