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Award-winning drummer Marcello Pellitteri dedicates new album to late daughter
(Published: May 03, 2016)

There is no mistaking the power of music to heal. For award-winning drummer Marcello Pellitteri, his latest album Acceptance became a way for him to overcome the grief of losing his daughter Veronica, who died tragically in 2014. Acceptance is dedicated to her memory, a bright young life sadly cut short.

Q: What musicians have influenced your music?

A: I am active as a performer, composer, and teacher. I have different influences depending on my role. As a performer I grew up listening to English rock first and later moved to jazz. Drummers like Carl Palmer (ELP), Ian Paice (Deep Purple), Phil Collins (Genesis), Max Roach, Tony Williams, and Billy Cobham have strongly affected my playing. As a composer I have written music for several theater plays. I feel the great Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, and Bernard Herrmann have had a great impact in my style of writing.

My music can stand on its own, even when used to underscore a dramatic scene in a movie or a theater play. As a teacher I have been a faculty member at Berklee College of Music for the last 30 years. My teachers Herb Pomeroy (Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker), John La Porta (Charlie Mingus Jazz Workshop) and Jan Jarczyk have showed me ways to inspire and motivate students to foster an emotional response not only for music but also for all aspects of life.

Q: How would you describe your musical style?

A: I feel my style is a mix of all the above mentioned influences. In my playing you can hear elements of jazz, rock, funk, and Latin music. I am very respectful of the tradition, but I don't mind to incorporate stylistic combinations.

No matter what I play I always try to best serve the music. That has worked to my advantage in the professional collaborations I had throughout my career that has seen me backing, among others, the legendary jazz singer Jon Hendricks, the New York Voices, Grammy award winners Dave Samuels, Paquito D'Rivera, and Slide Hampton as well as the world-famous Gipsy Kings.

Q: Where does your musical inspiration come from?

A: When performing my inspiration comes from the musicians I have around me. I listen to all that is going on in the band stand or in the studio and I react to it. Listening is a form of love and respect. When you truly listen you become a part of an aural bond that can work wonders. Sometimes I might respond to a musical idea originating by a soloist, sometimes I might be the one proposing an idea, which the other musicians respond to. In both cases it is the intense emotion of the moment that makes me play the way I do.

When composing, the inspiration comes from life experiences. Whatever the nature of the experience I try to transform my feelings into music. Besides these instinctual elements my inspiration comes also from compositional techniques that I have studied over the years, and I still do. My ultimate goal is to play or to write music that is a true expression of my feelings. Music that doesn't have to impress, but it has to express.

Q: How do you think music impacts our lives?

A: Music impacts our lives in a forceful way. It is more powerful that we can imagine. Everyone has a soundtrack in their lives. In it you can find music that's energizing, soothing, comforting, inspiring. It might remind you of a moment, of a place, of a person. One song can bring you back in time, another can push you forward to new horizons. Music is also a powerful educational tool, for it builds character, will and conduct of human beings.

Q: You dedicated your new album to your late daughter Veronica. Are all of the original songs on the record inspired by her?

A: Yes they all are, even the choice of the only cover song of the album, "Stay," made famous by Rihanna. My daughter was a pianist/singer who graduated from LaGuardia Performing Arts High School in New York City. She later went to Berklee for two years before enrolling in medical school at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy. While studying medicine she was also busy playing in piano bars.

"Stay" was one of the songs she sang at her gigs. I arranged it for my instrumental version inserting a solo section that doesn't appear in Rihanna's version. The other songs relate to Veronica in different ways. Two of them, "The Bargaining" and "Acceptance" are titled after two of the five stages of grief. "Last Autumn Sun" has to do with her passing in the fall of 2014. These three songs have been composed after her death while the other three originals "Special K," "Rock House," and "Silent Song" date back a few years but my new arrangements of them have been inspired by her, especially "Silent Song."

Q: Veronica's vocals are on "Silent Song." How did that track come about?

A: Three years ago I wrote music for an original theater play called "Silent Song of Genjer Flower" by Indonesian playwright, director and producer Faiza Mardzoeki. The main theme of the play was "Silent Song." Veronica recorded this original version accompanied by myself on midi keyboard. Such a version for its theatrical presentation had a much simpler harmonic chord progression.

For this album I decided to extract the vocal tracks from the original theatrical recording. I rewrote the arrangement around her voice for a 12-piece string orchestra, the awesome Orchestra Giovanile Mediterranea conducted by Alberto Maniaci, and an unplugged rhythm section. Veronica was born in Boston from Sicilian parents and grew up in New York. "Silent Song" combines all of these elements in that it was recorded in Palermo, Boston and New York. It came out as a single track in December 2015 and was later included in my album. All the profits from its sales go to the Veronica Pellitteri Memorial Fund.

Q: Please tell us more about the Veronica Pellitteri Memorial Fund.
A: This is a newly funded award in memory and honor of Veronica. It is administered by the Alumni and Friends of LaGuardia HS Association. Starting this June and forever more it will issue a scholarship for a dedicated and outstanding vocal or instrumental music student to further his or her musical development through private lessons, classes or summer study. Every year I host a benefit concert to raise money for the fund. This year it will be at Birdland Jazz Club in NYC on Sunday, October 9th. On May 14th there will be my CD release party in NYC at Nublu.

I hope many people will get the CD as I will donate all the sales profits from my album to the fund. Through this fund I made Veronica and her spirit immortal and I am well aware that this fund will support and encourage young talents the way Veronica would have wanted. Donations to the fund can be made to: https://alumniandfriends.org/fund/veronica-pellitteri-memorial-fund.

More Information: http://www.marpelmusic.com/#polaris

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