Jazz & Blues Magazine reviews Vinnie Riccitelli Octet, For the Record

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Vinne Riccitelli


By Ron Weinstock

Vinnie Riccitelli

For the Record

With a musical performing career stretching from
1941 to 2018, Vinnie Riccitelli led a highly successful
freelance career for decades. He did have an album in
1956, “Unique Jazz, Jazz From Westchester,” that had
eight originals he penned and played by an octet that
included tenor saxophonist Carmen Leggio, trombonist
Eddie Bert, and trumpeter Joe Shepley. Since then, he
freelanced, including being part of Bobby Rosengarden’s
East Coast Orchestra for the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
He was a sideman for such legends as Barbara Streisand,
Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Lena
Horne, and many more. He also was affiliated with some
of New York’s swing big bands, including Lew Anderson’s
All American Big Band, which enjoyed a lengthy
residence at Birdland. Riccitelli appeared on multiple
recordings of this band as the first chair alto sax.
Retiring from playing, he rediscovered his love
of piano and became inspired to revisit some of his
unrecorded compositions and arrangements. “For the
Record,” released some sixty-plus years after his first
album, features those songs and arrangements, and was
recorded between November 2019 and January 2020.
July • August 2021 • Issue 397 Page Twenty Five
Riccitelli, while no longer playing, was present for all
the recording sessions. This most recent project again
provided him the chance to work with and record some
of his longtime friends, including a former student of
his from the late 1940s, tenor saxophonist Joe Stelluti,
alongside his talented son Chris, on baritone sax, and
Joe’s brother Lou on bass. Others on this album include
Leo Ursini or Nathan Childers on alto saxophone, Glenn
Drewes on trumpet and flugelhorn, Bruce Bonvissuto on
trombone, Eddie Monteiro on piano, and accordion, and
Tony Tedesco on drums. Four of the seventeen tracks
were composed by Riccitelli, and he wrote arrangements
for all but one track, which was Tommy Newsom’s
arrangement for “Maids of Cadiz.” Before moving to
California to be part of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show
Orchestra, Newsom played in Riccitelli’s octet.
Aside from Riccitelli’s four originals, the compositions
include some classic jazz standards and songs
from the American songbook. These include “I’m Old
Fashioned,” “If You Could See Me Now,” “Stompin’ at
the Savoy,” “Star Eyes,” “Mr. Lucky,” “Maids of Cadiz,”
“Along Came Betty,” “Darn the Dream” “Dolphin Dance,
“Jordu,” and “Round Midnight.” The octet swings and
displays a clean, measured tone in a manner that suggests
a fusion of bebop and West Coast cool. This sound
is heard on “Riccitelli’s “Minor Seven Heaven,” which
showcases Joe Stelluti’s tenor saxophone. Another
fascinating original “Blues Dominant” is another feature
for Stelluti as well as trombonist Bonvissuto.

It should be noted that the performances are relatively
short, ranging from 3 to 5 minutes. Stelluti is also
prominent on “I’m Old Fashioned,” which has a couple
of solo choruses from pianist Monteiro. There is a gorgeous
arrangement for Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could
See Me Now,” with memorable solos from Drewes and
Chris Stelluti. Chris Stelluti’s robust baritone sax is also
featured on the hip interpretation of “Serenata.” The
arrangement of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” is a feature for
bassist Lou Stelluti with the horns framing his playing.
“Star Eyes” has shifting rhythms, tempos, and moods,
along with some fiery trumpet from Drewes. Tommy
Newsom’s arrangement for “Maid of Cadiz” provides
for a mesmerizing interplay by the horns before Bonvissuto’s
brassy solo.

On “Mr. Lucky,” Monteiro plays accordion with an
organ-like flavor. Drewes’ haunting trumpet evokes Clifford
Brown on a rendition of Benny Golson’s “Along Came
Betty.” Bonvissuto’s reflective trombone is showcased on
“Darn That Dream,” an arrangement originally written to
showcase Eddie Bert. Riccitelli’s Arrangements of Duke
Jordan’s “Jordu” and then Thelonious Monk’s “Round
Midnight” also merit mention using half-time and doubletime
on the Monk classic, adding spice with the horns
providing atmosphere behind Drewes soaring trumpet.
This album is a splendid recording that allows Vinnie
Riccitelli and his well-crafted, handsome arrangements
to shine. Add the excellent ensemble sound and terrific,
focused solos, and one has a jewel of a jazz recording.

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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