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An accordion, a fiddle, and a world of possibilities

Cory Pesaturo and Mari Black will play a free show in Cambridge's Starlight Square.
Cory Pesaturo and Mari Black will play a free show in Cambridge's Starlight Square.Handout

At the Cambridge outdoor performance space Starlight Square, accordionist Cory Pesaturo and fiddle player Mari Black, each of whom have won numerous national and international competitive awards, will present “Unscripted: Improvised Music from Around the World.” The June 9 concert, the first that either has played live since the start of the pandemic, is in support of the New England Musicians Relief Fund. We reached Pesaturo in Providence to talk about the show and coming back from the enforced hiatus of the last 15 months.

Q. You’re pairing with Mari Black for a show that promises a diverse set of music.


A. I’m more known as a jazz player or an Italian music player, but I play music from everywhere. I enjoy playing anything from tango to funk to classical to Bulgarian. There’s nothing I won’t do as long as it’s got notes in it. Mari’s main ballpark is Celtic music, but she has the capability to do almost anything as well. So that’s how we teamed up and have created this concert.

Q. The title also suggests that you’ll be doing a lot of improvisation.

A. It’s certainly a ton of improv. I mean, they’re all tunes, so there’s some structure to it, you’ve got the melody and chord changes, but they are mostly improv as both of us have done quite a lot of that, and it is kind of the foundation of everything I do.

Q. We’re finally seeing the re-emergence of live performance. That must be something you’ve sorely missed.

A. Definitely, because my whole career is based in playing. The worst part is, I’m all about connections. When you lose a year and a half, you don’t know what connections you would have made at various events that would have spilled out into all kinds of other connections.


Q. Obviously there have been substantial financial repercussions for many musicians as well, and that points to you and Mari doing this show for a worthy cause. You are requesting that attendees make a donation that will go to the New England Musicians Relief Fund.

A. When we got this concert I was thinking, we’re just so happy to play live again; since both Mari and I were recipients of grants from the fund and I’ve always been great friends with [board member] Dennis Alves and the people over there, why don’t we do this for them and give back as they gave to us?

Q. Live music is slowly returning, but it’s going to be a while until we’re back to anything approaching normal, which means that the fund will continue to meet pandemic-related needs.

A. Musicians will be the last ones to get back to normal, for a lot of reasons. It’s the middle category of good professional musicians that are in the worst spot, waiting for concerts, private events, corporate events to be booked. I don’t expect to be back to normal until next January.

Q. You have racked up a lot of awards as an accordionist, but the one that I’m curious about is the Guinness World Record for marathon accordion playing you set with a stint of 32 straight hours. How did you manage that feat?

A. It was really a mind-set, more than anything. I was planning on doing maybe a 16-hour practice session to see how I fared. But then I thought, what if I do that and it wears me out or I injure something? So I didn’t train for it, I just went and did it. I could have played easier music but I actually played mentally difficult music to keep me alert. The logistics before and after were honestly harder than the record itself.



June 9, 7 p.m. Starlight Square, 84 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge. Free, but reservations are required at www.NEMRF/starlight

This story has been updated to reflect a rescheduled date for the show.

Interview was edited and condensed. Stuart Munro can be reached at sj.munro@verizon.net.