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Pete Malinverni: Theme & Variations

Pete Malinverni’s first solo album is boldly conceived and impressively executed. Its premise is to postulate a snatch of melody and a graceful set of chord progressions-precisely a minute’s worth -and then to improvise equally brief variations on this theme, while addressing the five musical elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, texture and form.

It sounds like an academic exercise, but it is instead exhilarating moment-by-moment creativity. From the musical code contained in his one-minute drop of thematic amber, Malinverni derives diverse worlds, embellishing the original melodic motif, or inventing new melodic figures over the given harmony, or taking the core idea into rhythmic expressions from funk to swing to Latin. His precise, detailed, elegant playing is highly accomplished technically. It is even more successful poetically, as his reshaped but unmistakable theme, recurring through 13 variations, accumulates resonance.

Fresh, inspired readings of songs with special meaning for Malinverni are also deeply embedded in the overall design: “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation,” Sly Stone’s “Everybody Is a Star.” This recording is a very personal suite, a single long arc that’s resolved at the end with the return of the theme, like a circle closing.

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