If I could name only one person whom I’ve most enjoyed meeting and getting to know since I started writing about the New York City contemporary art scene, it would be Mark Kostabi. Mark is not only an extraordinarily talented artist and musician, but he’s also one of the nicest and most generous people I can name. On a day that is currently also memorable for being the day after the warmest day of the year so far, Mark hosted a wildly fun Jazz Art Brunch at the Dillon Gallery in Chelsea, where everybody listened to awesome live music, shared their art, ate, drank and had a great time! It was an ideal opportunity to meet up and hang out with friends that you normally only get to see on FaceBook!
Some people have all the talent, it seems. It’s no secret that world famous pop artist Mark Kostabi is also a phenomenally gifted pianist and composer – and fortunately for us, he is not shy about sharing his music with a global audience. Mark Kostabi!
Kostabeat! is Mark’s new CD collaboration with Italian drummer, Tony Esposito. The album’s press release tells the fun story about how the two “met at one of Kostabi’s extravagant parties in Rome [where the artist lives for half the year. Nice]. Kostabi was on piano in the middle of a jam session when Esposito suddenly got on drums and Kostabi was blown away by Esposito’s commanding, percussive drive. They immediately agreed to collaborate on an album. Three years and 50 concerts later, Kostabeat! exists!
Of course, Mark and Tony gathered a group of top-shelf musicians to play on the album as well. Paul Kostabi (Mark’s brother, a musician of some repute who is also an artist), plays guitar on most of Kostabeat!’s songs, and he is joined by Italy’s most famous saxophonist, Stefano Di Battista; Lino Pariota providing his expertise on a variety of keyboards; and Antonio Nicola Bruno playing bass on all eleven tunes. Esposito produced the album in collaboration with Paul Kostabi.
As with 2011’s The Spectre of Modernism on which Kostabi collaborated with the legendary founder of Free Jazz: Ornette Coleman, drummer Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel) and Bass/Chapman Stick master Tony Levin, Kostabeat! achieves a multi-genre, crossover appeal and is notable for being Kostabi’s first not-entirely-instrumental album. Here, Mark’s Playful and provocative lyrics are sung by a team of female vocalists: Mollie Israel (daughter of film directors Amy Heckerling and Neal Israel) Elizabeth LoPiccolo, a very talented and fiery, emerging Brooklyn singer and Monica Marziota: a Cuban-Italian singer who also has careers in opera and Latin pop music. All technical proficiency aside, it sounds like everyone involved had a fantastic time making this record.
“Unexpected” is how you might sum up the variety of music you’ll hear on Kostabeat! The CD’s lively opening track, “New Muse” leads with Mark’s gorgeous classically-inspired piano, layered with hand percussion, before flowing into a staccato synth riff and distinctly world beat vibe highlighted by Marziota’s otherworldly vocals. “Oriental Scale” finds Di Battista toying with an arabesque motif on his sax over an insistent and undeniably groovy beat. The exultant “Eternity Now” seems a natural choice for a remix treatment by any one of the moment’s top DJ’s (and it would certainly pack the dance floor in any night club) but it’s sure to find that audience just as it sounds on the disc. Rave on!
Things get a little laid back with “Echoes of Twilight,” which begins with the delightfully seductive, spoken lyrics, “Thank you for a lovely invitation, but I already have plans for the evening.” The instrumental “Megatron Horizon” is a bit of genre-bender that will appeal to the electronic dance contingent, but things get sultry again with “Glide With Me.” Bruno’s funky bass lines anchor the song before LoPiccolo’s gorgeous vocal delivery has a chance to fully intoxicate you. Love this track!
Of course, we did not miss the significance of the title on “11:11” – which is number we seem to see very time we look at the clock. The lyrics, “Eleven Eleven, a sign from heaven” prove that Kostabi the lyricist is on the same page. We appreciate the uplifting lyrics on a non-rock song that truly rocks! “11:11” is also an example of the meticulous arrangements that feature on each song. Getting back to the CD’s lyrics for a moment, “Mine Tonight,” a song about, er, spending the night with a hooker, features a spoken word interlude that I’d guess was culled from Kostabi’s FaceBook feed, to wit: “just so you know, I feel very grateful for the times we shared together and I’m so glad that we are still friends. You’re a very special person and I hold you in high regard. I enjoy seeing your posts and watching her life evolve in positive ways.” So, who says FaceBook is a waste of time?
Last but not least, we would like to offer that “All The Way Jose” manages to mention both guacamole and margaritas and cheekily name-check Roger Daltrey while favorably recalling the very best of Steely Dan. Kostabeat! Is an ideal soundtrack for entertaining a group of any size or just lounging around by your bad self. Nice work, guys (and gals)! Kostabeat! is available via iTunes and on the historic Italian record label Azzurra Music at This Link!