REVIEW: Steve Markoff and Patricia Lazzara (feat. Allison Brewster Franzetti) — Take on Me (SINGLE)
The musical partnership of Steve Markoff and Patricia Lazzara has experienced notable success and their latest single with pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti, “Take on Me”, follows the same template they adopted with their last release. “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight” struck me as an unexpected oddity when I first heard it but expecting such experiments this time made it a more enjoyable experience. If you believe the material doesn’t work in a quasi-classical setting, you are mistaken.
They bring a tremendous amount of nuance to bear. Markoff and Lazzara orchestrate their flute parts with great attention to detail, relaxing when it’s appropriate, ramping up the musical intensity when it works best to their advantage. Franzetti’s piano work, however, seems to lead the way for much of the song. I can’t say if the arrangement is an ironclad composition allowing little wiggle room, but Franzetti’s playing sounds full of inspired extemporizing rather than following a set trajectory.
They keep themselves reined in, however. The trio’s interpretation of “Take On Me” relies on artistry for its ultimate success rather than regurgitating past glories as it must contend with its long history as well as the demands placed on any song. All three musicians bring respective strengths to the performance and Franzetti’s piano-driven monologue in music has a surprising poetic effect despite the song long being classified as disposable pop. Labels seldom mean little when you take music on with an open mind.
It serves to show that the frills, bells, and whistles contemporary composers often embrace are affectations more than anything else. Listen deeper and you’ll often find the foundations of a first-class song. The buying and the music-loving public may be compromised of many sputtering inarticulates unable to describe what they like, but rest assured they know what they want even if they can’t express it. That’s why a song such as “Take On Me” clicks with audiences and, unsurprisingly, in any form.
There’s wonderful sincerity, as well, about this performance. You never get the sense listening to it that Franzetti, Lazzara, and Markoff are treating the musical experience with even a drop of irony; it isn’t some hipster turn where they’re amusing themselves covering a song they don’t even like. Those familiar with the original will hear its strands in this track, but the threesome has made important and arguably necessary changes in order to claim a small piece of the song as their own.
It will be a refreshing experience for longtime music fans and an eye-opener, perhaps, for newcomers. Exiting fans of the trio will not be surprised they’ve taken this route and the performance reaffirms why they enjoyed their previous work together, Lazzara’s concert flute and Markoff’s contributions on alto flute also give the song a musical quality missing from the vast majority of modern releases, timeless, but quintessentially modern. Mining this specific vein has proven to be a fruitful and rewarding endeavor for these musicians and no one can say it bears any hallmarks of a novelty act.