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 Nanni’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, “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 artistic choice, there were a few places in which the vocals maybe could have used a 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 Mark Nanni’s work, Towns & Spaces In Between is a great introduction to to the range of his abilities. I would hope the CD, and this review, each serve as an impetus to go see him live. He 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, Nanni’s long-standing jazz ensemble.
Highlights: “Changes” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” “Sonatina in G”