Written by Joe Ross
Born in 1926, Vinnie Riccitelli started playing alto sax at age 11, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, attended Juilliard School of Music, and became a full-time gigging musician until 2018. His last full-length album, described as “fresh and cool,” dates to 1956 when he released Unique Jazz, The Westchester Workshop to ply his writing and arranging skills for his octet while giving something back to the guys he admired and performed with. Now retired, Riccitelli is documenting his legacy on For the Record with four of his unrecorded compositions (“Minor Seventh Heaven,” “Blues Dominant,” “Flugelsville,” “Little Boy Blew”), a dozen classic jazz numbers he arranged during his career, and one arrangement (“Maids of Cadiz”) by Tommy Newsom. Riccitelli emphasizes the beauty of melody, harmony and rhythm to color the aural palette. “Flugelsville” features veteran sideman Glenn Drewes, and “Little Boy Blew” is an up-tempo bebop blues over interesting chordal and harmonic changes. Other material draws heavily from standards by legendary writers like Jerome Kern, Gene De Paul, Don Raye, Henry Mancini, Vincent Youmans, Jimmy Van Heusen, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Benny Golson, Duke Jordan, and Herbie Hancock.
Like his 1956 album, Riccitelli enlisted longtime friends he admired to perform the music on three saxophones, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass and drums. Selections like the breezy “If You Could See Me Now,” swinging “Mr. Lucky,” engaging “Dolphin Dance” and lively “Jordu” are tight and creative. They radiate with expression, imagination and taste, and Vinnie gives his illustrious guests plenty of room to strut their stuff. For example, “Stompin’ at the Savoy” allows Lou Stelluti’s bass to take centerstage, “I’m Old Fashioned” features a lush solo from tenor man Joe Stelluti, “Along Came Betty” is flavored with pianist Eddie Monteiro’s accordion, and several numbers like “Little Boy Blue” and “Serenata” have Chris Stelluti’s baritone voiced out front. The alto sax is masterfully played by Leo Ursini on 11 of 17 tracks, and by Nathan Childers on the other six. Ursini passed away before the recording was completed, and For the Record is dedicated to him. I also enjoyed the rhythmic changes in Leroy Anderson’s “Serenata” and Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight,” as well as the humorous 5/4 meter and key changes in “Star Eyes.”
For the Record establishes a real sweet groove of expertly played jazz for octet. Arranger Vinnie Riccitelli displays old-school discipline. He gives the music a very comfortable definition and direction that allow each voice into the room of light, lyrical conversation. That organization of the music lets its soul fully come through.