Syracuse-based keyboard player Mark Nanni has recently released a CD titled Towns & Spaces In Between. It is a wide-ranging disc that represents the breadth of the artist’s playbook, encompassing jazz standards, original tunes, popular songs from James Taylor, and selections from the Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead songbook. He touches on classical, blues, and ragtime as well. It begins with a twist on Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby” that allows Nanni to showcase his technique with precision and elegance. A different take on “Bye Bye Blackbird” catches the listener’s ear before leading into a couple of original songs such as “Sweet Danielle,” and “Royalty.” Perhaps the biggest surprise on the recording is the last tune, “Sonatina in G,” by Beethoven.
The CD was recorded live with no overdubs. While I admire the artist’s choice, there were a few places in which the vocals maybe could have used a little touch of enhancement, when overtaken by Nanni’s impressive keyboard playing. A minor point, to be sure, as his vocals serve the songs well. It’s just that Nanni’s piano and organ skills are so dazzling.
For those unfamiliar with the work of Mark Nanni, Towns & Spaces In Between is a great introduction to the range of his abilities. I would hope the CD, and this review, each serve as an impetus to go see him live. The artist is at his best when able to stretch out on pieces, whether as a solo artist, or with the Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Hollow, or The Intention, Mark Nanni’s long-standing jazz ensemble.
Highlights: “Changes” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” “Sonatina in G”
The artist’s schedule is available at through his Facebook page here. The artist’s CD can also be purchased at his shows, or through his website here.
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