by Tom Haugen
For The Record
Although the saxophonist, pianist and composer Vinnie Riccitelli made his living as a musician for his entire adult life, until now he only recorded one album, and that was way back in 1958. Now retired, here he documents his life’s work while revisiting some of his unrecorded compositions and arrangements from a lengthy and esteemed career.
“Minor Seventh Heaven” starts the listen with flowing and fluent alto saxophone from Nathan Childers that’s aligned with precise drumming from Tony Tedesco in the timeless jazz climate, and “I’m Old Fashioned” follows with Leo Ursini’s soulful alto sax front and center alongside Eddie Monteiro’s subtle but very effective piano work.
There’s 17 tracks included, and each one is superbly textured, including the highly melodic and uplifting “Stompin’ At The Savoy”, while the aptly titled “Blues Dominant” displays much subdued beauty while using 13 chords. “Along Came Betty”, one of the record’s best, then recruits accordion from Monteiro as the soft brass and calm percussion intertwine with a meticulous nature.
Further down the line, “Flugelsville”, one of the four originals featured, showcases Glenn Drewes on trumpet, whose veteran skills are finely honed, and “Round Midnight” makes use of half time and double time on the unpredictable interpretation of the Thelonius Monk tune. “Little Boy Blew” exits the listen on a very high note, as Childers contributes his sax prowess amid Chris Stelluti’s stunning baritone sax
A fantastic, lively and memorable set of tunes where Lou Stelluti’s contributions on bass and Bruce Bonvissuto’s trombone won’t go unnoticed, one might wonder why Riccitelli didn’t make more albums. Turns out, he was too busy working with Diana Ross, Natalie Cole and Smokey Robinson, among many others. At least we have this collection of authentic, emotive and spirited songs to revisit often.