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Vinnie Riccitelli Octet – “For The Record” Self-Released
Born in 1926 in Yonkers, NY, Vinnie Riccitelli has literally spent a lifetime playing the saxophone. He started at age 11, and by 15 was playing professionally. After serving in the Navy during WWII, he was accepted by the highly regarded Julliard School of Music as one of the first three musicians ever chosen to study the alto sax. Upon completion of his studies, he resumed his professional career. All in all, his career spans an incredible 77 years. Retiring in 2018, Riccitelli has continued to make music, only he has done so for fun from home. “For The Record” is an examination of some of his earlier releases and was recorded from November 2019 through January 2020. None of the seventeen tracks sound improvised. Rather, they come across as skillfully arranged and expertly executed. Riccitelli did not actually re-record these tracks for this release, however, he was on hand to oversee their recording. Despite being a re-release of prior recordings, it is a firm example of the skill Riccitelli possessed when he was playing professionally. All in all, this is a great example of traditional jazz by a 95-year-old musician with 77 years of experience in figuring out how to make exceptional music.
Melbreeze – “I Love Paris” Blue Canoe Records
Turkish born, LA resident Melbreeze has released 10 covers of standard songs all done in a rather unique jazz, improvisational style. All of these covers tell a good story, from “Sentimental Journey” to “Killing Me Softly With His Songs.” Some songs have a measure of the spoken word. In fact, track 6, “I Love Paris” has a vocal story told during the song itself. All in all, her voice is both compelling and beguiling. She enthralls the listener, enticing them to become absorbed in the music. As I listened, and if I closed my eyes, I kept getting the feeling I was in a Paris nightclub on the Champs de Lycée in the company of a marvelous performer. Each song is its own interpretation and a relaxing journey of melodic, traditional jazz – oriented in a mix of both standard and pop related genres.
Sue Maskaleris – “Love Is The Key” Jazilian Records
McCoy Tyner once said she had “a touch like Bill.” He was referring to Bill Evans. She began playing piano at age 4 and by adulthood had developed a love for Brazilian styled music. I reviewed a previous work of hers in November 2013. All eleven tracks have, to one degree or another, a ting of Latin inspired sound to them. Sue’s piano work is nothing less than spectacular, and perfectly instep with the overall compositions. Mostly, the pace is rather slow and purposeful. Her musical tone is more toward the melodic side. Her voice is also excellent, and she never gives the slightest hint she is overreaching her vocal abilities. Like her previous work I reviewed, “Love” is a Latin themed work of vocal driven traditional Jazz that is exceptionally composed, arranged and performed by an artist known for doing just that.
David Larsen – “The Mulligan Chronicles” David Larsen Productions
To say that the latest release from David Larsen is a cover of the music of Gerry Mulligan is a complete understatement. Already possessing multiple degrees, Larsen is currently pursuing a PhD from Washington State University where he is specifically studying Mulligan’s music. In preparation of beginning this work, Larsen visited the Library of Congress to study and examine handwritten musical scores and other information contained in the Library’s archives. Mulligan’s own work was varied and ranged from symphonic to big band, to film to small bands. Done in a traditional jazz style, Larsen’s efforts in paying tribute to someone he obviously and greatly admires is very well served. All thirteen tracks are traditional jazz and arranged in a way that they just flow along. They are not hurried, nor do they lack movement. The music just happens. Anyone who is a fan or devotee of Gerry Mulligan will, I feel sure, really enjoy the latest work from David Larsen.
Lyle Workman – “Uncommon Measures” Blue Canoe Records
While he might not be widely known by name, Lyle Workman has composed soundtracks for hit movies who in total have grossed over a billion dollars. He has been a career in demand session player. Now, he brings together all his worlds in his latest release, “Uncommon Measures.” This release is uncharacteristic in several ways. One, I could not really define it by a single genre. It has hints of jazz, rock, orchestra, I mean you almost name it. I also kept getting the feeling this work harkened back to his days producing movie soundtracks. Several songs sounded like they would be right at home in a 1970’s big budget movie with an intense car chase, one terrorizing the streets of some large city. Another surprising fact is that this release was recorded totally live. And by live, I mean at famed Abbey Road Studios in London. By no less than a 63-piece orchestra. I suppose his association with a wide and varied list of artists as a session player influenced his own orchestrations. Because while I did not feel compelled to classify “Uncommon Measures” by any one definable genre, what I can say is that it was a stunning, absolutely, positively remarkable collections of songs – all expertly crafted, orchestrated and performed.
Bill Toms & Hard Rain – “Keep Moving On” Terraplane Records
The latest release by Bill Toms is notable in several ways. One, it was, quite literally, a virtual recording. Because of the pandemic, none of the musicians were in the studio at the same time. Given the horn sections, that is all the more difficult. Then there is the issue of having all the instruments recorded from home being able to cohesively form a worthwhile song. His bass player, for instance, was in Italy at the time of recording. In this, Tom’s tenth studio recording, a cohesive release of rock and roll is exactly what happens. Set for an April 30, 2021 release date “Moving On” is a testament to doing just that. Call it his way of putting Covid behind us and celebrating hope and faith. In my December 15, 2017 review, I wrote that Tom’s music had hints of the Jersey Shore and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. And nothing has changed. This is, for the most part, “higher” octane, horn, guitar, bass and drum styled vocal tracks done in a rock and even blues style. My toe was tapping the whole time. In fact, anytime I basically forget I’m conducting a music review and just get into what I’m hearing it is a good thing. As with his previous work, that’s exactly what happened with this release as well. I don’t think I could have enjoyed “Keep Movin’ On” more than I did. Absolutely wonderful.