Inner Urge – Marina Pacowski
Every once in a great while, a musical artist comes along who is the complete package. Marina Pacowski (pronounced Pa-KOH-ski) is one of those very rare artists. This recording showcases her phenomenal prowess as a jazz vocalist, a true improvisor, and also an arranger of innate insight who can easily realize and communicate her creative vision, providing the perfect framework for these tunes.
Where does such a complete musician come from? In Marina’s case, the journey begins in the Southwestern France city of Biarritz. From a very early age, she would be improvising vocally while walking around this beautiful and charming beach community. Music chose her immediately, and she was always aware that it was all around her, and she happily became a channel for it. It wasn’t long before classical piano studies began for young Marina, and once again, her natural instinct guided her through a meticulous journey to the very pinnacles of musical excellence. She won countless awards and competitions and became a Professor at the Conservatory Maurice Ravel at an unusually young age. Highly respected composers have written solo pieces especially for her because of her brilliant artistry and unequalled powers of expression. One such composer, American Frank Proto, wrote an entire Concerto for her, flying her all the way from France to the United States to record it with a chamber orchestra.
Along this entire journey, the love of jazz was already in Marina’s soul and spirit. It was just a few years ago, during her first visit to see her brother, that Marina began her dream journey of settling and playing music in the finest country in the world, the USA.
Scott Whitfield, trombone (7, 9)
Josh Nelson (1, 2, 3, 6, 13), Mark Massey (5, 10), Bevan Manson (7, 12), piano
John Clayton (1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 11, 13), Mike Gurrola (5, 7, 12), bass
Roy McCurdy (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 12), Peter Erskine (8, 11), drums
Larry Koonse (8, 11), guitar
Joel Frahm, tenor sax (1)
Brent Fischer, vibraphone (2)
Jon Mayer, piano (4)
Nolan Shaheed (10), flugelhorn
Carl Saunders (11), trumpet
Vocalist Marina Pacowski bops and coos with fervor on this mix and match album of Angelenos… Best of all are the minimalist pieces, one a duet with pianist Jon Mayer on a glowing “My Foolish Heart” and a flickering candle of “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life” with Nelson and Clayton. This lady swings like a hammock.
Powerful are the forces that French-born, Angeleno Marina Pacowski brings to the music arena. A classically-trained pianist bitten by the jazz vocals bug, Pacowski moved from her native France to Los Angeles in 2017, where she immediately became a part of the thriving jazz scene.
For her debut jazz recording (Pacowski was the featured soloist with Ensemble Sans Frontière beneath the baton of Michael Chertock on Frank Proto: Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra (Liben Music Publishers, 2021), Pacowski assembles an impressive band that includes, saxophonist Joel Frahm, bassist John Clayton, guitarist Larry Koonse, trombonist Scott Whitfield, and drummers Roy McCurdy and Peter Erskine, among others. Pacowski assembles an inspired and provocative program for Inner Urge.
From the opening title piece, a Joe Henderson composition from his 1965 recording of the same title, Pacowski sets a high bar for scat singing/vocalese. A spit-fire duet with Frahm introduces the piece before the tenor saxophonist takes the first solo out of the head. Pacowski follows with a gradual and dramatic building to a scat counterpoint to Henderson’s original melody.
Pacowski brings this same momentum to a breakneck “Donna Lee,” demonstrating her laser-sharp command of the chord changes as well as her fertile improvisational mind. But scat singing is not all the singer has to offer. Pacowski arranges all songs save for “East Of The Sun.” Her arrangements impress, especially on her breezy interpretation of Clare Fischer’s “Pensativa” and Miles Davis’ “Solar” replete with the singer’s French lyrics. She takes on Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” straight down the mainstream of performance. Her voice is perfect for this song. Pacowski’s voice is the thing: on up-tempo scat pieces, she roars with a command that is almost frightening. On the ballads like “My Foolish Heart” and “I’m Old Fashioned,” her voice folds in on itself, becoming almost coy and coquettish, wholesomely teasing the listener with its mystery, and that, is what makes this most unusual voice work. It will be interesting to hear what is next for Pacowski.
-Wild Mercury Rhythm by C. Michael Bailey