New York Mary

New York Mary was an instrumental jazz-rock trio that was active in the Northeast U.S. during the mid-1970s, releasing two albums on Arista’s Freedom imprint in 1976.

Members: Bruce Johnstone (baritone/alto/soprano sax), Rick Petrone (bass), Joe Corsello (drums, percussion)

Saxophonist Bruce Johnstone and bassist Rick Petrone played in Maynard Ferguson’s backing band during the earlier part of the decade while drummer Joe Corsello appeared on Barry Miles‘ first album.

An early Arista signing, New York Mary released two albums during America’s Bicentennial year. For New York Mary (1976), the trio of Johnstone, Petrone, and Corsello are augmented by trumpeter Donald Hahn, guitarist Tim Breen, and keyboardist Allan Zavod.

Lighting Rhodes arpeggios in G beacon “Sunrise,” which crashes between the root and minor-third with wailing sax and machine-gun drums aplenty. As Corsello pummels throughout, the soloists take turns in the spotlight. Just as the skin-man seems to be the last one left on the battlefront, the saxist recapitulates the tune amidst a polkafied closing propulsion.

Wah-filtered Clavinet introduces the mono-chordal “Shooby,” where Johnstone swaps saxes at the fore as Corsello tom/snare pummels against a wet, scratchy fretboard lick. Similar guitar/keyboard effects are utilized on the treble “New York Mary,” on which the brass/woodwind team blow and tongue amidst a syncopated precision that hears Corsello lay a closed hi-hat on every first beat.

Johnstone explores the diatonic breadth of C in “Hip City Slicker,” where Petrone’s dizzying low-note walks are highlighted in the middle. The bass remains persistent even as the mic is overrun in a brass duel. All the while, Corsello bashes with the intensity of two drummers playing at once.

For the sophomoric A Piece of the Apple (1976), New York Mary are joined by trumpet/flugelhorn player Ron Friedman, guitarist Pete Levin, and keyboardists Robert Aries and Pete Levin.

Johnstone and Friedman billow upwards in unison amidst the diatonic descent that signals “Rush Hour,” where brisk charts give way to piercing analogue and creamy Rhodes amidst the track’s click-hi-hat/wah-wah precision.

Petrone puts his Phaser bass to low-octave work on “Zoo Mouth,” in which Corsello rolls toms from one speaker to the other whilst keeping a steady cymbal click. An effects-laden four-string also lines the clicking, stumbling pace of “Greasy Street,” which fuels an inebriated trade-off of sax and flugelhorn.

Rhythms are largely de-emphasized on “Aftermath,” a flute/Rhodes wind-down number mostly in Amaj7.

Shortly after the recording of the first album, Zavod scored a high-profile, four-year gig in Jean-Luc Ponty‘s backing band. After New York Mary split, Johnstone lent his services to clarinetist/bandleader Woody Herman. 


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