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Farinacci Trumpet Blast in Millbrook

Music Review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sun Feb 17th, 2019

From left: Dan Kaufman, Dominick Farinacci, Johnathan Michel, Ava Preston

As part of the The Catskill Jazz Factory and Millbrook Arts Group collaborative series, a Dominick Farinacci Trio played at the Millbrook Library late Saturday afternoon. Farinacci has been recently credited with the title Global Ambassador to Jazz at Lincoln Center by Wynton Marsalis, working to further integrate jazz into communities around the world. After a few remarks by Piers Playfair, the founder of The Catskill Jazz Factory, we were launched into a program that revolved around the legacy of Clifford Brown whose life was cut short at the age of 25 due to a car accident in heavy rain on the Pennsylvania turnpike while he was sleeping in the back seat of the car.

Farinacci opened the program “Brownie Speaks,” the title of a 2008 documentary on Brown, with Brown’s composition “Sandu,” accompanied by pianist Dan Kaufman and Jonathan Michel on bass. This laid a foundation for meditating on Brown’s originality as he sought a voice apart from the dominant New Orleans style. Brown’s stylistic technique was to add more air into notes, thus delivering a more introspective technique while dazzling with faster, cascading 1/8th notes yet achieving an overall mellow tone progressive shifting of melodies. To strike up that contrast with New Orleans Farinacci played a Louis Armstrong medley which featured higher and more intricate, extended notes with slower timing and more extroverted, intense blast while holding notes.

To illustrate a bossa nova inflection that sometimes appears to influence Brown’s style of ballad they played “This Brazilian Song.” Farinacci then played a five-minute excerpt from Brown’s seventeen-minute version of “You go to my head.”

Farinacci is from Cleveland, Ohio. He brought with him Ava Preston, a fourteen-year-old protégé to sing “All of Me.” She sang quite well with good dynamic contrasts and range, especially improvising scat.

Farinacci next played “Doha Blues” from his 2016 album short stories. This six-minute wandering with Middle-Eastern tonalities was the highlight of the afternoon. Farinacci was a jazz ambassador for the U.S. for nearly three years in Doha, one of the melting pot musical capitals of the world. Here Dan Kaufman laid down some nice solo riffs on piano.

Farinacci spoke of the influence of the noted Mexican trumpet player Rafael Méndez on Brown. They played Brown’s “What’s New,” followed by a Dianne Reeves tune “Tango,” which also appears on Farinacci’s short stories album. Here Jonathan Michel on bass delivered an extraordinary solo that became the highlight of the number.

It became clear that both Armstrong and Brown are seminal influences on Farinacci and that he has charted a midway approach between the two influences. For a finale they broke into the standard “Cherokee” with high spirits and momentarily and playfully fell into double time before slowing it down.

Ava appeared for the encore to sing “Lullaby of Birdland,” a song that Brown played with Sarah Vaughan on vocals, which appears below. Once again Ava delivered a super scat string of delight in a slightly less sentimental vein than Vaughan.