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Debut from French Vocalist Marina Pacowski

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    Posted: 23 Feb 2023 at 10:40pm




Out March 10, 2023 on Summit Records

MARINA PACOWSKI - Inner Urge cover


MARINA PACOWSKI always dreamed of coming to America because of her fascination with the American music scene and her love of jazz. Born and raised in Biarritz, a lovely seaside resort in southwestern France, her parents loved American music. Her father, a successful surgeon who also played clarinet and sax, and her brother, who plays guitar, were both in a New Orleans-style jazz band, while her mother loved American musicals and the songs that became jazz standards. Pacowski, a jazz vocalist and classical pianist, had made a couple of trips to the States, playing jazz piano in different venues in California, and finally took the big leap in 2017 to settle down in Los Angeles where she became part of the local jazz scene.


Pacowski has now recorded her debut jazz album, INNER URGE, with a Who’s Who of some of the finest jazz musicians in the United States. The album features JOEL FRAHM (tenor sax), JOHN CLAYTON (bass), ROY McCURDY (drums), JOSH NELSON (piano), JON MAYER (piano), PETER ERSKINE (drums), LARRY KOONSE (guitar), CARL SAUNDERS (trumpet), MARK MASSEY (piano), BEVAN MANSON (piano), MIKE GURROLA (bass), BRENT FISCHER (vibraphone), NOLAN SHAHEED (flugelhorn), and SCOTT WHITFIELD (trombone). The album was produced by Pacowski and Whitfield. Pacowski also arranged all the selections (except one arranged by Whitfield).


Although she is a superb pianist, Pacowski chose to focus on her singing for this project. She began studying piano when she was eight years old, but she also very much enjoyed singing and scatting along with Ella Fitzgerald records. Her neighbors were amused to see a little girl walking around the community singing vocal improvisations.


Pacowski has been honored with numerous awards, including the “Best Collaborative Music Award” by the International Society of Bassists, which caught the attention of bassist and composer Frank Proto, the Composer-in-Residence for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Proto wrote a piano concerto for Pacowski and flew her out to record an album and DVD at Greaves Hall in Cincinnati.


Pacowski became a faculty member in France at the Conservatory of Music Maurice Ravel when she was still quite young, and today she is regularly invited to teach clinics and master classes in festivals and music camps in France and around Europe. She has toured extensively in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as in the United States.


After Pacowski’s brother moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music, she decided it was time for her to make her move. She had performed in various venues around the country but especially loved the climate of Southern California, which reminded her of Biarritz. So, she moved to Los Angeles, where after a short time she started performing at local jazz hot spots like The Jazz Bakery and The Lighthouse. Some of the highlights of her performance career in Los Angeles include being the guest vocalist for a tribute to guitarist Kenny Burrell at Catalina Jazz Club, receiving a Jazz Excellence Award in 2021, which was awarded at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in a ceremony hosted by music host Rhonda Hamilton of KJazz-FM.


With the ear of a trained musician (and a uniquely individual vocal timbre), Pacowski is adept at vocal improvisation. Her complete command of the chord changes and highly developed sense of swing are apparent right from the opening number, “Inner Urge,” which features a burning scat by Pacowski and some fiery tenor sax improvisations by New York-based Joel Frahm. A highlight of this arrangement is Pacowski’s adventurously hip counterpoint to the original melody.


The sea is very important to Pacowski. Growing up along the Atlantic coast, Pacowski would spend her time sitting by the water where she found solace in the sound of the waves. She chose Clare Fischer’s Latin jazz standard “Pensativa” for its ocean imagery. The sounds of the sea are represented by Roy McCurdy’s cymbals (the waves), John Clayton’s bowed bass (seagulls) and Brent Fischer’s (Clare Fischer’s son) vibraphone (the wind). Pacowski wrote her own lyrics in French to Miles Davis’ “Solar,” which opens with John Clayton’s evocative bass figure. Pacowski sang “My Foolish Heart” with the inimitable Jon Mayer at a concert and captures the magic of that evening here with a duo rendition of the classic tune.


Pacowski’s improvisatory chops are on full display on Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee,” which also features a burning piano solo by Mark Massey. Pacowski loves Miles Davis’ unaffected straight-tone playing and captures it beautifully on “On Green Dolphin Street,” which she re-arranged in 5/4 time. “I’m Old Fashioned” is an old chestnut for which Pacowski has a special affinity because, like the lyrics, she loves the moonlight, the sound of rain, and the simple feeling of being in love. The song features Bevan Manson on piano and Scott Whitfield on trombone. Pacowski chose “Moon and Sand” because of its dreamy lyrics and ethereal melody and harmony.


“East of the Sun” is a favorite tune played at the regular jam session where Pacowski met trombonist Scott Whitfield. She and Whitfield wanted to include it to honor their meeting and collaboration. It was arranged by Whitfield and features a nine-piece band. Pacowski wanted to include a typical French song and chose arguably the most well-known French tune “La Vie en Rose.” Pacowski says, “I wanted to represent my country, and this song seemed like the best choice because it’s so popular. And the reason it is so popular is because it has an amazing melody!”


Pacowski’s arrangement of “Up Jumped Spring” features beautiful solos by Carl Saunders, Peter Erskine, and Larry Koonse, as well as a hip vocal improvisation by Pacowski. “Taking A Chance on Love” is included because of its hopeful lyrics. Pacowski concludes the album with a haunting duo rendition of “What Are You Doing the Rest Of Your Life?” Accompanied solely by Josh Nelson’s piano, Pacowski sings the original French lyrics by Eddy Marnay, with music written by fellow countryman Michel Legrand.


INNER URGE is an eminent debut by a refreshing new voice on the American jazz scene. Marina Pacowski’s highly developed harmonic sense and feeling for time infuse her vocals with a musicality that you would typically associate with a skilled horn player.

# # #


INNER URGE is set for release on March 10, 2023 on Summit Records and available everywhere.





@FrenchieMarina (IG)



Edited by snobb - 23 Feb 2023 at 10:40pm
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