‘Aquarius Woman’: Marcello Pellitteri lights jazz on fire in his tribute to daughter Veronica

Marcello Pellitteri and his talented jazz musician friends collaborate on “Aquarius Woman” for the daughter who passed too soon. CREDIT: Veronica Pellitteri

Musicians don’t often feel blessed. They choose a hard life chasing gigs for one chance in the spotlight. They make sacrifices for their art, going many nights without family, night owls on an endless bender of schmooze, and the next jam.

But when they suffer a loss, they rise with the kind of music that can uplift, enliven, and transform. The lowly commoner without a note must rely on paid therapists or, god forbid, the Internet, to assuage their abject pain.

Musicians turn to their music to work through their emotions. saxophonist Jimmy Greene did it on his two albums, the Grammy-nominated Beautiful Life from last year, and the upcoming, April 28 continuation, Flowers. The in-demand musician and composer lost his dearly beloved daughter Ana in 2006 from a senseless rampage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. His beautiful music helped him mourn and celebrate a life cut too short, in gospel, festive tomes.

Italian transplant and drummer Marcello Pellitteri pays his own, different, tribute to daughter Veronica, 23, who passed away in 2014, with the Nov. 30, 2016 album, Aquarius Woman. Proceeds from the sale of the album — the second dedicated to the memory of his daughter — will go to the Veronica Pellitteri Memorial Fund, administered by Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts for scholarships to deserving student musicians.

The idea of an album first came to Pellitteri during a memorial concert with his Italian bandmates in Palermo. “I knew how talented these musicians are, and I didn’t want the CD just to be my own voice and ideas, so I asked them to contribute their own compositions to the project,” the award-winning drummer, pianist, composer, and producer said in a press release from Mouthpiece Music.

Those musicians make up the breadth of stylistic emotions in this new record. They include keyboardist Salvatore Bonafede, who adds a classical element on “Colors On Your Face,” as well as his own compositions, alto saxophonist Orazio Maugeri, French harmonica player Yvonnick Prene, electric guitarist/Spoken Word Marcello Todaro, and New York Voices member Lauren Kinhan on one of two covers, Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon In The Sky” — a favorite of Veronica’s.

For the most part, Pellitteri chooses to focus on the happy side, the bright impressions left by his daughter. The music overflows with exuberant language, a celebratory flexing of jazz muscles, definitely in the modern straight-ahead style, every instrument firing on all cylinders, in a skip and jump rhythm only a restless purist could love.

“Villeneuve” by Bonafede is a drummer’s dream, accented on the hot spots by the sax. Pellitteri just lets loose, his pent-up energy condensed in compartmentalized flurries and exclamatory flashes.

Pellitteri’s “Chasin’ The Zone” really lets loose from the onset, featuring incredibly dense tenor sax work by special guest George Garzone and Bonafede’s omnipotent fingers on keys. These guys can jam, scattering assorted rhythms with controlled passion. Your dominant foot will start moving in no time.

Veronica Pellitteri’s own voice reminds the listener who this is for in the title track, as she reads “Greetings of Hope,” a poem from Indonesian writer Murtiningrum. “Aquarius Woman” eases off on the gas considerably, a solemn moment marked by voice and mirrored in a parallel musical prism of drums, sax, and the bare hush of piano. Perhaps the instrumentation could’ve been softer, played with just a piano and the sotto voice for maximum effect.

Otherwise, a remarkable example of miracles in grief from a jazz veteran who regularly tours with the New York Voices.