REVIEW: Steve Markoff and Patricia Lazzara — (I Just) Died in Your Arms (SINGLE)

It’s always a bonus when you hear or review a musical act performing and recording for love rather than money. After listening to Steve Markoff and Patricia Lazzara’s cover of Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” I am certain each musician involved would continue playing if they never recorded another note. There is restless creativity present in their past musical output and it remains a hallmark of their work in the new single, but there’s other crucial ingredients as well.

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The sense of joy present in their work is understated but specific. It’s the joy of making music, creating a living work of art in collaboration with other like-minded souls, and it will reach all but the hardest of hearts. The two flutists, Markoff on alto flute, create a weave of “voices” that pays loving homage to the original song without ever attempting to recreate it. This is a distinctly different interpretation, and you can hear their sense of discovery developing with the song.

Approaching 80’s material may be a double-edged sword. Many listeners will thrill to the sound of modern musicians traversing familiar and surprising musical ground, but there’s a significant segment of the audience who may disapprove. Historical narratives create a perception that’s hard to shake and some listeners may not give it a fair hearing. I believe, however, most people exposed to this track will appreciate its daring.

All the daring in the world doesn’t matter, however, if they can’t back it up. Lazzara and Markoff play together without ever stepping on one another’s toes and the intuitive chemistry they share feels natural, even spontaneous. Their individual skills are obvious, but the success of the configuration hinges on the effective mesh of the two main players. Pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti joins the pair for this single and her playing is perhaps the song’s crowning musical touch.

It isn’t a long track. The pair have traveled accessible territory before so, overall, the turn they give us here isn’t altogether out of character, but you can’t help but note their skill-level. I can’t imagine a single context where their playing would come across as leaden or amateur. Their joint and individual flute lines snake through the arrangement and have a lyrical slinkiness that ably mimics the human voice.

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Let’s be grateful for their willingness to put themselves on the line like this. They are exposing themselves to ridicule for revisiting this track. Even one listen to the song, however, makes it apparent they knew exactly what they wanted to do with this song and had a clear vision for executing it. They don’t pander to their audience, however. Markoff and Lazzara, instead, interpret the original as they hear it, as they think it should be, and pull listeners along for the ride. It’s a thoroughly satisfying journey and experienced on their own terms. It makes it all the more rewarding and gives such songs underrated staying power — you don’t listen once and then never come back to the track.

Colin Jordan