Whipping world and classical music in with arch popular music devices seems like a recipe for disaster. Flutists Patricia Lazzara and Steve Markoff, however, are exceptions to the rule in their ongoing collaboration with pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti. The three musicians follow-up their preceding single “(I Just Died) In Your Arms Tonight” with another stab at 80’s greatness. The indelible “Take On Me” was one of the biggest MTV-driven hits of the late 1980’s thanks in no small part to its iconic and oft-parodied video, but the trio recognize something deeper and more substantial at work.
Even recast in a different form and with a much different feel, the melody of this song retains its near-ethereal capacity to carry listeners into another world. It never sounds or feels forced in either version. There are natural segues from one passage into the next and adapting the synthesizer and heavy backbeat of A-ha’s original into the much lighter territory of Franzetti’s piano, Markoff’s alto flute, and Lazzara’s concert flute shows skill and imagination.
They assemble the track with a steady hand. D. Varelas’ arrangement positions the song’s peak moments in such a way that it reinforces the overall track while highlighting the playing talents of those involved. There are no self-conscious virtuoso trips marring this recording, however. Markoff and Lazzara, longtime creative partners who began as student and instructor, respectively, are clearly dedicated to serving the song and Franzetti’s performance comports with theirs.
Everyone shares the same footing here; there’s no obvious musical “leader”. Part of the song’s enormous potential appeal is hearing how cohesively the three musicians merge without ever stepping on each other’s figurative toes. These are players who listen to one another rather than waiting for their moment to shine. It’s akin to someone who, in conversation, gives you their undivided attention, heeding each word, while others gesticulate and nod impatiently waiting for their chance to speak again.
Pairing alto and concert flute together provides just enough contrast that listeners can soon distinguish their parts from each other. Franzetti’s piano is the constant, however, diving, soaring, and keeping the song in a near constant state of melodic flux. There’s no overplaying, however. Every note comes when the listener wants and needs it. It packs a far bigger emotional punch, I think, than its famed predecessor. This will probably be the biggest surprise of all for those familiar with the song – they capture a feeling of longing that will move many listeners as well as entertaining them.
Listen to Take on Me on Spotify. Steve Markoff · Single · 2022 · 1 songs.
It doesn’t overstay its welcome. Franzetti, Markoff, and Lazzara share the same sense of economy as the song’s original authors and their revisions to the song, never staying too far from its core, are focused and eschew sideshows. It’s the latest offering in succession of similarly themed pieces from the flutists Markoff and Lazzara but they show no signs of ebbing creative energies. Unexpected lyricism charges “Take on Me” and holds your attention from first note to last. It isn’t an experience you will soon forget.
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