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Track-by-Track: Anthony D’Alessandro Slices Through His LP ‘Searchin’’

Canadian jazz performer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony D’Alessandro joins us for a track-by-track look at his new record ‘Searchin’.’



Anthony D’Alessandro
Anthony D’Alessandro

Anthony D’Alessandro’s new album is a real meeting of the past and the present. The jazz pianist released his debut record, Searchin’, last month. Seven tracks illustrating his emergence as one of Canada’s most emerging jazz artists. The album title was inspired by D’Alessandro’s inquisitiveness. He tends to ask a lot of questions about what the future holds. He uses his music as a means of seeking out answers to those questions. It’s a way for D’Alessandro to conceptualize the world around him. The album features five original compositions inspired by the different elements of his musical tastes. Included along the way are two vocal numbers, including his interpretation of the classic Gershwin ballad “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which features vocals from Benny Benack III. “East of the Sun” is an improvisational duet between D’Alessandro and Caity Gyorgy.

Benack and Gyorgy are just two of the all-star guests featured on Searchin’. The album also features appearances by the great bassist Neil Swainson and JUNO-award-winning drummer Ernesto Cervini. It’s a forward-looking album with D’Alessandro firmly focused on the future. His mind is always focused on how he can evolve as a musician. Part of what he loves about music is that it enables him to search for answers through music, art, and life. Having great and talented friends to help contribute makes it all the better.

D’Alessandro joins us today for a special track-by-track rundown of Searchin’. He discusses each song, his thoughts behind them, and what makes them unique.

1. “The Golden Mean”

“The philosophical concept of ‘The Golden Mean’ can be described as the desirable middle of two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. I had this concept in mind while coming up with the groove of this song. Its original intent was for the drums to be halfway swung and halfway straight – reminiscent of the old boogie-woogie grooves of the 1930s and 40s.

“‘The Golden Mean’ in this piece is the desirable middle between a straight eighth groove and a swing groove. Over time it evolved to be a bit of one and a bit of the other. The song starts with a straight eighth boogaloo-esque feel and transitions to a full-on triplet swing for the piano solo… The best of both worlds!”

2. “Tune for Monty”

“I composed ‘Tune for Monty’ while still an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. At the time I was checking out a lot of music by the great Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander. He had a great band at the time, the Harlem-Kingston Express, that was blending Jamaican elements of reggae, ska, and R&B with the jazz and bebop of New York City. I wanted to write a song with Mr. Alexander in mind and came up with a simple melody over a calypso groove, similar to the grooves I’ve heard him bring the house down within live settings. That’s how ‘Tune for Monty’ came to be!”

Anthony D’Alessandro ‘Searchin’’ album artwork

Anthony D’Alessandro ‘Searchin’’ album artwork

3. “Blues for the Down and Out”

“‘Blues for the Down and Out’ is a composition of utility. I was gigging frequently with my regular trio at the time and I wanted to add a greasy, slow, blues in G to our book. After about an hour of writing, I came up with the melody to ‘Blues for the Down and Out.’ The tune has evolved to include a nice stop-time section that Benny Benack beautifully solos over on the trumpet. I’m really happy with the energy we captured on this one, especially with the master Neil Swainson driving the boat on the low end with his powerful basslines.”

4. “Someone to Watch Over Me”

“I knew I had to include at least one ballad on the album, and the haunting melody to ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ has been stuck in my head ever since I heard Art Tatum’s version years prior. To create the arrangement, I put some of my harmonic knowledge to the test. I started by listening to dozens of different versions of the tune, collecting as much harmonic data as possible. There are seemingly endless ways around the harmony to this classic ballad. That’s the beauty of a really well written standard, it can be arranged in so many different ways.

“It is no surprise this is one of the most recognizable songs in the Great American Songbook. After some thorough musical research, I started putting in ‘a little bit of this’ and ‘a little bit of that’ into the arrangement and came up with a new, harmonically rich interpretation of the tune, which flows very nicely underneath Benny Benack III’s warm vocals. I’m especially proud of how this arrangement and performance turned out.”

5. “Outbreak”

“‘Outbreak’ is one of those pandemic compositions musicians were so vigorously working though in the years 2020 and 2021, and sure, the title is certainly on the nose. But I’m hopeful as time goes on it will detach from its initial intention. I was listening to a lot of MyCoy Tyner at the time, especially his playing with the John Coltrane quartet. And I wanted to write a song that had some of that gritty, intense New York energy to it.

“I love the way Ernesto Cervini plays the drums on this one, absolutely lighting a fire on the bandstand. All the musicians on my record are tied to New York City in one way or another. I think we really managed to achieve a New York sound on this one.”

6. “Wonder”

“In 2020 I embarked on an artistic experiment where I commissioned four Canadian visual artists to create original paintings and then used those paintings to inspire a four new songs. One of the paintings was by a fabulous Toronto based artist, Wanrapa Surasao, depicting a young woman sitting in a large picture frame looking up at a cloudy blue sky. In this painting Wanrapa told me the girl is looking at the sky thinking of her family looking up at the very same sky, yet on the other side of the world. She is filled with wonder at that great blue sky.

“I took that title, ‘Wonder,’ and wrote this piece to go along with the pensive theme. It has a jazz waltz feel to it, and features some really nice playing on trumpet by Benny Benack III.”

7. “East of the Sun (feat. Caity Gyorgy)”

“This last song on the album, ‘East of the Sun,’ came to be when our singer/trumpeter, Benny Benack III, heard that I knew and played with the great Canadian talent Caity Gyorgy. The two of them are on the same New York City based record label. They had known each other online for years, but had never met in person.

“When Benny was coming to Canada to tour with me and record this album, he suggested getting Caity to sing on a track. Benny wrote a brand new vocalese himself, which showcased both of these powerhouse vocalists’ razor sharp ability to sing bebop lines, phrase melodies and lyrics, trade off each other and improvise on the spot. The result is a delightful interpretation of the classic standard ‘East of the Sun.’ It is one of only two songs Benny and Caity have ever recorded together.”

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