The Sentinel reviews Vinnie Riccitelli Octet – For The Record

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Vinne Riccitelli

Travis Rogers, Jr.

Vinnie Riccitelli Octet – For The Record

Vinnie Riccitelli has been playing the alto saxophone longer than most of us have been alive. His heart is firmly rooted in Jazz and his first album, in 1956, showed him as a jazz composer, as well.

He then took off on a highly successful career backing legendary performers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, and so very many others. In the 1970s and 80s, Riccitelli moved to such pop artists as The Jackson 5, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations and, again, so many more. Then he turned his attention to big band and enjoyed a long residency at Birdland until, in 2018, he retired from professional music.

What that allowed him to do however was return to his own music, Jazz that had been tucked away in his head. Sixty years after his first album, Unique Jazz – the Westchester Workshop, Riccitelli now offers us his second album, For the Record. The music of Jerome Kern, Jimmy Van Heusen, Thelonious Monk, and Herbie Hancock is rendered in mid-sized ensembles. More than that, he has some originals to share. And they are worth the wait.

The Octet is comprised of Leo Ursini – alto saxophone [tracks 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 13, 16], Nathan Childers – alto saxophone [tracks 01, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17], Joe Stelluti – tenor saxophone, Chris Stelluti – baritone saxophone, Glenn Drewes – trumpet and flugelhorn, Bruce Bonvissuto – trombone, Eddie Monteiro – piano and accordion [track 07], Lou Stelluti – bass, and Tony Tedesco – drums.

He spaces his originals from first to middle to last tracks on the album, beginning with Minor Seventh Heaven. You guessed it, Vinnie is giving a tip o’ the hat to those sweet minor sevenths. The excellent Tony Tedesco turns in a fine drum performance here and throughout the album. Then straight into Jerome Kern’s I’m old Fashioned. Check out the sonorous tenor sax solo from Joe Stelluti.

If You Could See Me Now by Tadd Dameron features brilliant passages from Glenn Drewes on trumpet, Bruce Bonvissuto on trombone, and the saxophones. The brilliant Eddie Monteiro adds warmth from the piano. Then it’s onto the tempo changes in Leroy Anderson’s Serenata. Lou Stelluti adds his cool bass that will continue into Edgar Sampson’s Stompin’ at the Savoy, where Lou gets the full spotlight.

Star Eyes by Gene De Paul and Don Raye is a cool arrangement with a changed-up time signature and slick modulations. The rhythm section nails it all down precisely as the horns have their fun. Adding to the fun is Henry Mancini’s Mr. Lucky as Eddie Monteiro takes a turn on the accordion. This is a blast.

Blues Dominant is Riccitelli’s second original on the album. Blues for sure with those dominant 13ths. This was so fascinating that I had to hit replay a couple of times before moving on. Leo Delibes’ Maids of Cadiz was arranged here by Tommy Newsom. Yes, that Tommy Newsome, sax man and assistant director for the NBC Orchestra on Johnny Carson. Then Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty which Riccitelli arranged with a Jazz chorus. Sweet solo from Monteiro.
Darn That Dream
 by Jimmy Van Huesen follows next with a warm and wonderful trombone solo from Bonvissuto followed by Drewes’ trumpet and back again. Then comes the smoke and sass of Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance where alto saxophonist Nathan Childers steals the spotlight in such smooth and forward ways. This paves the way for Riccitelli’s third original, Flugelsville, where Glenn Drewes gets all the attention on his flugelhorn. Riccitelli’s originals fit in so well, both in the track list and in mood and style.

Flying Down to Rio (Youmans/Kahn/Eliscu) leads into Duke Jordan’s Jordu with all kinds of rhythmic fun and lush horn passes before moving on to what may be Thelonious Monk’s most famous piece, ‘Round Midnight. Don’t expect a straight-up cover of Monk’s original. No, indeed. The times are cut then doubled and you feel like it is midnight and you’ve been drinking ‘way too long and too much. You’ve got to love this one.

Riccitelli’s closes this great album with his last composition, Little Boy Blew. This is one bouncy and unexpected blues.

Riccitelli follows the show biz adage, Always leave ‘em wanting more. He does just that. For the Record is clearly the results of decades-long rumination and affection. Vinnie Riccitelli has chosen just the right numbers to show his love for all that Jazz has to offer.

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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