Monk moves!

Monk moves!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Paquito D'Rivera

Sam Noto - Noto-Riety

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


From 1975 - 1980, the brilliant Jazz trumpet player, Sam Noto, made four LPs for Don Schlitten’s Xanadu record label none of which have made it into broader, digital circulation.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it would be fun to highlight Sam and his Xanadu recordings in four, separate postings before combining these into one, comprehensive feature about Sam and the other recordings he played on for Xanadu as a sideman during this period, most notably on one in which he teamed up with bebop trumpet legend, Red Rodney.

Not only are Jazz fans indebted to Don for recording Sam at the peak of his career but also for turning to four knowledgeable Jazz authors to prepare the liner notes to these LPs each of which provide a wealth of information about Sam’s background, his style of playing, the musicians on the various dates and the song selections.

Recorded on October 17, 1978, Sam Noto/Noto-Riety [Xanadu 168] features Sam along with Sam Most, flute, Dolo Coker on piano, Monty Budwig on bass and Frank Butler on drums with the following liner notes by Andrew Sussman.

“The cliche is in itself notorious — the underrated jazzman; talented but ignored, starving, unappreciated, forgotten. Well, Sam Noto is not starving: not anymore. He got the lucrative Toronto studio scene to help support him and his family. And with nine appearances on LP on Xanadu, one could hardly claim that he has been forgotten, either, though his resurgence has been a recent one.

Yet Nolo-Riety is more than a play on words, for as the trumpeter's jazz work becomes more and more available to the public his talents quite naturally become more appreciated; his ability more notorious. But he's still "underrated," and in a world of vastly inferior musical minds, many of which have been practically idolized despite their thin crust of talent, this is a monstrous sin.

In any case, Sam Noto has never let this injustice affect his art. His trumpet playing remains fluid and versatile and technically virtuosic. It's bebop at its finest, and the influence of Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown and Fats Navarro is clearly evident in each note he blows. But his own personality has evolved over the years, and his style is now individualistic and clearly identifiable. His tone is warm and full; his sensitive reading of ballads so lyrical that it sounds as if he must be playing the flugelhorn rather than the usually harsher trumpet, but he's not. Like Clifford 8rown, he is able to shape the instrument to his own needs; to create within the confines of the horn several identities. Each is viable — and each is his own.

Pairing Sam Noto with the innovative jazz flutist Sam Most might seem a natural action, their styles are so similar; their mutual understanding of melodic construction so obviously compatible. But it wasn't until 1978 that the two Sams actually met in a jazz context. It was producer Don Schlitten who instigated the session: first bringing them together for a concert at Montreux in the summer of that year, and then flying out to Los Angeles for what he called a "marathon international recording session" which resulted in five separate albums by different leaders. Kenny Drew came in from Copenhagen to record the first date on October 15 with Leroy Vinnegar and Frank Butter (Home Is Where The Soul Is, X 166); they were joined by Sam Noto (in from Toronto) and saxophonist Charles McPherson the next day (For Sure!, X 167). October 17 found Butler remaining and Dolo Coker and Monty Budwig rounding out the group for this LP. On October 18 and 19, Xanadu presented the "Two Sams' Band" at Donte's in North Hollywood. Leonard Feather noted in the Los Angeles Times that "Though they have seen service with name bands (Sam Most with Louie Bellson and Buddy Rich, Noto with Bellson, Basie and Kenton), both men have put in more than their share of time in the stultifying atmosphere of Las Vegas." He then went on to mention that "Justice should demand that the history books document Most's role as the first truly creative jazz flutist...he is a rhythmically engaging performer whose peppery, witty style may take hold of a set of chord changes and never let go for a half-dozen beautifully constructed choruses." Of Noto. Feather stated: "His sound is clear and strong, his style cast in the Clifford Brown mold. If he were free to play jazz full time, he might well develop into a major force on the horn."

Feather went on to describe the rest of the band. "Pianist Dolo Coker, a bebopper of the Bud Powell school, knows the value of understatement, often holding his considerable technique in reserve... Monty Budwig is everybody's dependable bassist, supple and swinging … Frank Butler, conceivably the most underrated drummer in Los Angeles."

But don't lake Leonard Feather's word for it—the evidence is here on this LP, and it's the type of proof which is a constant pleasure to verify.

With all that magnificent music, one might have thought that Don Schlitten would have been satisfied, but he wasn't. As he dryly related the story: "We took the next day off, and October 22 found Frank Butler leading Dolo and Monty with the added two tenors of Joe Farrell and Teddy Edwards (Wheelin' and Dealin', X 169). On October 23, Charles McPherson returned as a leader with Monty Budwig, Lou Levy, Charles McPherson Jr.,drums, and Kevin Jones (congas). Thit session also marked Xanadu debut of guitarist Peter Sprague Free Bop!, (X 170)." Phew! Quite a week!

Anyway, back to the session enclosed, pairing a trumpet and a flute, what might be a dangerous combination in less professional hands. Sam later stated with thai characteristic modesty that "I thought the session went well. We played a few times together, and I thought it was good, I was happy with the thing," which has to go down as the understatement of the year, at least as far as we are concerned as listeners.

The tunes are all originals, composed by Noto, and illustrate a fine sense of chord structure and melody. Fine Wine starts things off on a brisk, cheerful uptempo mood. Sam Noto's solo is fast and aggressive showing off not only his brilliant technical control but the ever-inventive mind behind it. Sam Most follows in his inimitable style, seeming to lay behind the best and yet pounce directly upon it at the same time. Dolo Coker adds some adept piano statements, and the two horn players trade eights with Butler, building the excitement to a climax, and then restate the theme in unison. It should be mentioned that the mix throughout the record is excellent and one is never left with the feeling that either of the horns overpowers the other, a constant problem with diverse instruments.

To Me Everything Happens is remindful of Everything Happens to Me. Sam Noto improvises masterfully from the very beginning, weaving his way through a lyrical masterpiece with ease and grace; phrasing each chorus with sensitivity and an almost tangible feeling of compassion. Dolo maintains the fantasy with a beautifully crafted solo which is simultaneously simple and complex, and almost floats over the changes, before Noto returns — proffering his warmth once again. Credit must be given to Monty Budwig and Frank Butler who, as they do throughout the proceedings, provide intelligent, empathetic support which goes so far beyond mere accompaniment: it adds a vital spice and flavor which truly helps distinguish this session as a special one.

Spanish Coffee is light and Happy, with a subtle latin feel. Both of the Sams show great facility and depth in their solos.

Sunbird takes the tempo up once again, and as Sam Noto related it, "I just wanted to put Bird's name in there somewhere and I came up with that name while looking through a magazine." With typical reverence, energy is the focus as everyone solos, including some particularly emotive fours traded between bass and drums.

Lady Arleen is named for Sam's wife and it’s a thoughtful, beautiful portrait which drawn. Note's muted trumpet is poignant and revealing with Sam Most's flute offering an appropriately exhilarating contrast.

Noto-Riety rounds out the session, and its funky, medium tempo provides the perfect vehicle for both Sams to stretch out at length. Most's distinct tonguing and breathy timbre are utilized to good advantage here, and his technique is enviable but never needlessly furious or showmany. Noto follow, with several moving, soulful, searching choruses and Dolo Coker and Monty Budwig both offer us one final opportunity to listen in awe to their uniquely swinging voices.

The history of all these artists has been documented so often in the past that I can't see repeating it here. Sam Noto's biography is outlined particularly well by Mark Gardner on the notes to his first LP as a leader—Entrance! (Xanadu 103).

Since moving to Toronto in 1975 Sam has recorded a great deal for Xanadu — but still not received the recognition or acclaim necessary to allow him to support himself playing jazz. "I've just stayed out here and had to do ail this studio crap," he candidly admits. "I sent out a big bunch of press kits, tryin' to get some gigs, to go out and play — but I haven't had too many calls." He says he does "odds and ends" and 'just can't seem to get into jazz full time, as I would like to." For the moment he accepts that philosophically. But as Sam's notoriety grows — and it is bound to with the release of this album — I feel confident that the situation will be promptly rectified. As all will perceive who listen to his music, that day cannot come soon enough.”

Notes: ANDREW SUSSMAN
Recording: ARNE FRAGER
Mixing: PAUL GOODMAN
Produced and Directed by DON SCHUTTEN


Friday, September 28, 2018

Riffs 'N Rhythm - A Celebration of Big Band Jazz - JOC

Sam Noto - Notes to You

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“ … Sam's playing … embodies his extension of the style that runs from Dizzy Gillespie to Fats Navarro through Clifford Brown. Of all the major trumpet soloists at work today who come out of Clifford, Noto is spiritually and technically most faithful to the source. His production of notes … shows a thorough understanding of Brownie's artistry. Too much, of course, can be made of artistic lineage; no one really plays like anyone else. … Sam's allegiance to the Brown style is important to his conception. But he is too forthright an individual to allow his personality to be submerged beneath even the oceanic influence of Brown.”
- Doug Ramsey, Jazz author, critic and blogger

From 1975 - 1980, the brilliant Jazz trumpet player, Sam Noto, made four LPs for Don Schlitten’s Xanadu record label none of which have made it into broader, digital circulation.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it would be fun to highlight Sam and his Xanadu recordings in four, separate postings before combining these into one, comprehensive feature about Sam and the other recordings he played on for Xanadu as a sideman during this period, most notably on one in which he teamed up with bebop trumpet legend, Red Rodney.

Not only are Jazz fans indebted to Don for recording Sam at the peak of his career but also for turning to four knowledgeable Jazz authors to prepare the liner notes to these LPs each of which provide a wealth of information about Sam’s background, his style of playing, the musicians on the various dates and the song selections.

Recorded on December 18, 1977, Sam Noto/Notes to You [Xanadu 144] features Sam along with Joe Romano, tenor sax, Ronnie Cuber, baritone sax, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Freddie Waits on drums with the following liner notes by Doug Ramsey.

“It was late Spring or early Summer, 1957, and Stan Kenton was playing a dance at the Washington Armory. The band may not have been Kenton's best, but it was by no means his worst. Lennie Niehaus was the featured alto saxophone soloist. Bill Perkins got most of the tenor solos. Red Kelly was the bassist. The trumpet section included two players I thought showed promise as soloists. One was Lee Katzman, who dropped out of sight after the 1950s. The other was Sam Noto. None of the trumpeters got much in the way of solo time from Kenton, he kept them so busy blowing high and loud. But lead trumpeter Noto showed more than power in his scattered few bars of improvisation. He had imagination.

The few of us who had come to listen were grouped at the edge of the dance floor, and I remember one of our number remarking that it would be interesting to hear Noto stretch out in solo. None of us dreamed it would be nearly two decades before that opportunity materialized.

Note's Kenton experience lasted from 1953 to 1960, but for most of that time, he recalls, "there was precious little solo space."

"Near the end, I started to get a lot to play, but it took a long time," he says. "By then Stan had put me on first trumpet and it was kind of hard to keep my jazz chops together, and play that book. It's a different kind of thing. When you play first trumpet, you have to put your air in differently, because you're aiming for projection. When you play jazz, you have to kind of bubble your air in to get the proper inflections. It was hurting me; I wanted to be a jazz player and he was making a first trumpet player out of me. That's why I never went back on the band."

Looking back on the lead experience with Kenton, Noto today realizes its value. It made a professional reputation that helped him land lucrative lead jobs in Las Vegas, where until the mid-seventies he worked in show bands. And the ability developed in the pressure cooker brass section of the Kenton band has made it possible for him to secure more or less steady studio employment in Toronto. Now he uses the Canadian city as a base of operations for his beloved jazz work. It isn't fair, it isn't right, that a creative artist of Noto's rank should have to record jingles and other schlock to subsidize his first love. But it is more fair, more right, than starving.
Starving is what he says he did after leaving Kenton and returning to his native Buffalo.

"After a couple of years of hard times, I got myself together jazz-wise. I began to be able to play the way I had wanted to during the Kenton years."
That meant developing his improvisatory technique. An important component of that was the business of bubbling the air into his horn. Other trumpet players, notably Clifford Brown, have used it, but it is as difficult to explain as it is to master.

"I get four or five calls a week from students at the Humber College music school in Toronto asking how I do it. If I could only get an answer together, I could probably make a good living teaching. I just keep the air going, but I interrupt it, sometimes with the tongue, sometimes without it, but it sounds like I'm tonguing all the time. I picked it up from just listening to Clifford. He sometimes tongued, sometimes slurred, but he kept that air going. He did it in such a way that it became a virtuoso style of playing. It's hard to explain, and you don't do it by thinking about it too much. And you can't really tell how I do it by watching. Trumpet players from the school come down all the time and watch closely, but they still ask how I do it."

After the years of getting his style and technique together in Buffalo, Noto went on the road with Count Basie for five months in 1964 and three months in 1965. He found that big band experience considerably different from the one with Kenton. He was featured in solo on only a couple of pieces. But he says he learned something about the Basie men's approach to playing that proved a valuable lesson.

"When I first got on the band, I was sticking out like a sore thumb," he says. "Those cats play differently. They lay back. They play with the time more. A whole section will be in a different time slot than another section. But it all comes out. It's much more relaxed than Kenton. At first with Basie I was playing right on top of the beat, but after a few nights I began to get the hang of it. I really enjoyed it. With Basie, if it doesn't swing, it doesn't mean anything. With Stan, everything was more concerned with harmonic style."

When he left Basie, times were rough in Buffalo, and Sam moved to Las Vegas for several years of financially rewarding but artistically barren activity in the pits of the Strip's show hotels. There were a few Musicians Union trust fund concerts in which Noto and other jazz players attracted by Vegas' plentiful money could express themselves. Otherwise, jam sessions provided the only creative outlet.

"Playing in people's' garages after the gig, that was the only way we kept our sanity."

Among his companions at many of those after-hour sessions was Gus Mancuso, another talented upstate New Yorker who is equally accomplished on piano, vibes, bass, and baritone horn and who has been all but buried in the Las Vegas scene for two decades. The Mangione brothers, Sal Nistico, J. R. Monterose, Don Menza, Frank Strazzeri, and Joe Romano are among the upstaters who developed in the fifties and sixties and who share an indefinable but unmistakable stylistic bond.

"It sure has a certain kind of feel about it," Sam agrees. "Some people in L.A., without even knowing where we're from, can hear us play and know we're from that area. Some Upstate Italian thing, I guess."

Romano and Noto have been doing their Upstate Italian thing together off and on since the early 1950s when Sam was working at a Buffalo club called Boffo's. Romano visited from Rochester one night and sat in.

"I was impressed with Joe's playing that night, always have been. Through the years, we've been associated. When I had my own club in Buffalo, he worked with me."

Joe was a Woody Herman mainstay in the 1950s, recording outside the band occasionally, including a 1957 date with Gus Mancuso that was memorable for Joe's Sonny Rollins-inspired solos as well as Gus's robust baritone horn work. He still likes early Sonny, as you can plainly hear, but what was an almost overwhelming influence 20 years ago has been tempered by Joe's development, and to some extent by the saxophone changes of the Coltrane era. More of the fruits of the Noto/Romano relationship may be heard on Sam's second Xanadu album. Act One (X 127). Sam's first album for Xanadu is called Entrance! (X 103). He can also be heard along with Dexter Cordon, Al Cohn, Blue Mitchell, Barry Harris, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes on True Blue (X 136) and Silver Blue (X 137).

This was the first time Noto had played with Jimmy Rowles, the unclassifiable piano giant from Spokane. Rowles has accompanied virtually every major jazz artist of the modern era, and each of them has been almost unreasonably lavish in his or her praise of Jimmy's sensitivity, inventiveness, humor, and encyclopedic knowledge of tunes. It is quite likely that Rowles knows more changes to more songs than anyone else. He is a major soloist. It strikes me that his solo on Parley is an out and out masterpiece of jazz improvisation, logical, lyrical, constructed with the fluidity of thought and emotion that can be achieved only by a great artist. Producer Don Schlitten notes that "a number of so-called hip musicologists did a double take when they found out that Rowles was in the band, but as you can hear, Rowles is a giant and belongs everywhere."

Sam was thrilled with Jimmy's contribution.

"He was dancin' back there," he says. "He loosened me up. He plays a little less than other piano players. In fact, he's one of the last of the good compers. He comps lightly and in short spurts, where some guys will lay on a chord and force you into a corner with it. And studio playing is something else, you know; he was about 15 yards away from me. But, as I say, he was dancin', giving me those nice little pops to keep me going." Jimmy can also be heard in duel form with Al Cohn on Heavy Love (X 1451).

Sam Jones, one of the busiest and most respected bassists in New York, works frequently these days in clubs and on tour with Cedar Wallon. He is featured on many Xanadu albums and on his own as leader on Cello Again (X 129). He continues the Oscar Pettiford tradition of bass playing, but has long since established his reputation as a major force on his instrument.

Waits' credentials can be quickly established by listing a few of the artists he has worked with: Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny Dorham, McCoy Tyner, Carmen McRae, Lee Morgan, Mercer Ellington, Stan Getz, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Nancy Wilson, not to mention Captain Kangaroo. The range of abilities implied by that variety of performer speaks for itself. So does his drumming on this session, as well as on The Inimitable Teddy Edwards (X 134).

Ronnie Cuber's first jazz experience was in the legendary Newport Youth Band led by Marshall Brown in the 1950s. From there he went to Maynard Ferguson's incendiary early sixties organization. But, for most listeners, he became a major baritone factor when he worked with the exciting small band led by guitarist George Benson in 1966 and 1967. His sound is large, but incisive. He is a solid anchorman in a sax section, and a soloist who demands attention for his swaggeringly confident improvisations. Cuber's ferocious work on Parley is among his best on record. His own album is Cuber Libre (X 135).

As for Sam's playing, it embodies his extension of the style that runs from Dizzy Gillespie to Fats Navarro through Clifford Brown. Of all the major trumpet soloists at work today who come out of Clifford, Noto is spiritually and technically most faithful to the source. His production of notes, alluded to above in his discussion of technique, shows a thorough understanding of Brownie's artistry. Too much, of course, can be made of artistic lineage; no one really plays like anyone else. Paul Quinichette, for an example, is the most faithful of Lester Young's disciples, but the experienced listener can quickly pinpoint Quinichette's touches. Sam's allegiance to the Brown style is important to his conception. But he is too forthright an individual to allow his personality to be submerged beneath even the oceanic influence of Brown. Listen to his entry on 'Round Midnight, and his controlled lyricism in the first four bars of the melody. No mistaking that for any other trumpet player. His speed and control are much like Clifford's, but his fast work on Notes To You makes it clear that his way of handling those flurries of 16th notes is his own. Brownie was inclined to play uninterrupted strings of 16ths, sometimes to the point of boredom, one of the few legitimate criticisms of his work. Noto alternates the fast passages with stretches of longer notes, imparting a distinctive variety to his solos.

This album also represents Sam Noto the composer. All of his originals here are originals in the true sense. There is one exception. Notes To You is based on the changes of I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire, of all things.
"All the bebop guys used to put new lines to old changes," Sam explains. "We were messing around with those changes one day, and that's what I came up with. But lately all my tunes have had original changes."

Quasinoto and Conclusions were written in Toronto in 1976. Cross Chris and Parley dale back to the early sixties and Noto's Buffalo hiatus.

"Cross Chris was named after my son. He was a hyperkinetic little boy, and he was always angry. Now he's 17, and he's still angry. So it's a turnaround on 'criss-cross' but it has no musical relationship to the Thelonious Monk tune named Criss Cross,"

Quasinoto was one of Sam's nicknames in Las Vegas. "Notes" was another, hence Notes To You, a song and album title definitely not to be taken as an insult.

Sam is moderately pleased with his playing here. Pressed to assign it a value on a scale of one to ten, the perfectionist Noto gives it a 6. He says he has achieved 8 a few times, and is still working for 10. Based on the perfection of his playing on this album, we must conclude that if 10 is achievable, it will be a staggering experience to hear Sam when he gets there.

With three Xanadu albums under his leadership, Sam's Notoriety is growing. After years of solid development, he is being recognized as a major jazz artist. It is gratifying to watch...and hear...his success.”

Notes: DOUG RAMSEY
Cover Photo: DON SCHLITTEN
Recording: PAUL GOODMAN
Produced and Directed: DON SCHLITTEN


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sam Noto - Act One

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Like most instrumentalists who also compose, Noto reveals in his written lines a flow akin to his trumpet emanations.”
- Ira Gitler


From 1975 - 1980, the brilliant Jazz trumpet player, Sam Noto, made four LPs for Don Schlitten’s Xanadu record label none of which have made it into broader, digital circulation.


The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it would be fun to highlight Sam and his Xanadu recordings in four, separate postings before combining these into one, comprehensive feature about Sam and the other recordings he played on for Xanadu as a sideman during this period, most notably on one in which he teamed up with bebop trumpet legend, Red Rodney.


Not only are Jazz fans indebted to Don for recording Sam at the peak of his career but also for turning to four knowledgeable Jazz authors to prepare the liner notes to these LPs each of which provide a wealth of information about Sam’s background, his style of playing, the musicians on the various dates and the song selections.


Recorded on December 1,1975, Sam Noto/Act One [Xanadu 127] features Sam along with Joe Romano, tenor sax, Barry Harris on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Billy Higgins on drums with the following liner notes by Ira Gitler.


“After a series of "Now, coach?" frustrations Sam Noto's virtuoso brilliance was finally revealed beyond the circle of his musical associates by a recording he made in trumpet tandem with Red Rodney during 1974 [Red Rodney Plays Superbop with Sam Noto [Muse 5046]. When the producer of that date, Don Schlitten, formed Xanadu Records, he helped bring Noto's talent more clearly into focus with Sam's debut as a recording leader. Entrance! [Xanadu 103) is a quartet date in which his is the sole horn, spotlighted against vivid backdrop of Barry Harris, Leroy Vinnegar and Lenny McBrowne. The locale of this recording session was Los Angeles because, at the time, Noto was still living and working in Las Vegas.


In Act One the action shifts to New York, Sam having moved to Toronto, and the cast of characters is altered in several instances. Harris remains on stage but this time he is joined by the solid, sensitive duo of [bassist] Sam Jones and [drummer] Billy Higgins. At the  center of the proscenium with Noto is his compatriot of long standing, [tenor saxophonist] Joe Romano. The last time they had played together was in a Carl Fontana sextet at the Silver Slipper in Vegas, circa '68.


Noto heralded his Entrance! with two of his own originals, the title number and one dedicated to his daughter, Jen-Jen. For Act One it was decided to showcase more of Sam's compositions. Like most instrumentalists who also compose, Noto reveals in his written lines a flow akin to his trumpet emanations. Romano describes them as "intricate" and admits that they're tricky to negotiate. There had been a considerable time lapse since Sam and Joe last blew together, in the mid-60's in Sam's quintet at the Renaissance in Buffalo.


"We never have to talk about the music," says Sam in pointing out the great empathy that has existed between them from the early 50's when Joe (from Rochester) and Sam (from Buffalo) began communicating amidst the then active scene in upstate New York.


Renaissance was Noto's own jazz coffee house and it was thriving — up to a point. Success in the jazz club business is not easily accomplished by purveying capuccino. When Sam applied for a wine and beer license, he was refused due to Renaissance's geographical proximity to a YMCA. This turn of events forced him to give up the club and set out for Las Vegas and a steady paycheck.


If you've read Mark Gardner's fine liner notes for Entrance! you know that Sam finally had to split from the "Strip" in 1975. In Toronto he is enjoying a chance for self-expression with jazz gigs at George's Spaghetti House and Mother Necessity. He has also had the opportunity to display his solo talents in his native city through appearances at the University of Buffalo and McKinley High School, as well as at clubs such as Mulligan's and Ericson's.


Romano, known for his work with Woody Herman in the '50's and '60's, played with Buddy Rich, off and on, in the 1968-70 period and was featured with the drummer's band in 1972-74. In 1975 he moved to New York where he has worked with Chuck Israels' National Jazz Ensemble and on occasion with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. On his last tour of duty with Rich he was on alto but he is back to his main love, the tenor. He is, in Noto's words, "a natural player."


That coincides with what I hear, sincerity that is evident in every phrase he plays. I don't think Romano could blow a dishonest note if he tried. This love of and for the music comes through unmistakably. Some of us became aware of this when he recorded with Chuck Mangione back in the early 60's on an album called Recuerdo. Charlie Parker and Bud Powell were early inspirations for Joe and, like most tenormen of the period in which he matured, he talks with reverence for Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. On listening you hear that Sonny is his main man, the Rollins of the years before that giant decided he had to promise to be au courant. It is a pure, beautiful, swinging language and Romano speaks it fluently.


Another man whose sincerity, integrity and pursuit of life-pulsing beauty are well-known entities is pianist Barry Harris. Barry has been on so many Xanadu sessions he is beginning to take on the appearance of Kubla Khan's high priest. When Don Schlitten asks him to step in, his musical response is invariably the equivalent of "Khan Dhu." Harris, whose own albums are Plays Tadd Dameron (Xanadu 113) and Live In Tokyo (Xanadu 130), always inspires the hornmen as well as taking care of his solo spots with deceptive ease.


Sam Jones is another Xanadu leader (Cello Again, Xanadu 129) whose bass graces many a date for the company in a supporting role. He is a disciple of Oscar Pettiford and this no nonsense approach to the instrument is one that is strongly appreciated by his fellows.


Billy Higgins and Jones most often are part of the Cedar Walton trio but they are just as much at home with Harris. Together the three supply a flotation-rotation that grooves as it moves on zephyr-like hooves.


Act One, Noto's Latinate adaptation of Well You Needn't (the bridge is different) opens Act One. The party of the first part is Romano who comes out burning from the git-go. Noto is next and, as he is throughout, far more relaxed than usual. The fire is still there, however, but more importantly so is the warmth which so many of the later lineal descendants of Clifford Brown seem to lack, whatever their attributes. But then Sam had the advantage of hearing Diz, Miles and, especially, Fats Navarro before Brownie even got to him. Higgins is buoyant in his exchanges with the horns.


The medley which follows is made up of three great ballads that are not rare enough to be cliches: I Should Care featuring Harris; What Is There to Say by Romano; and You Are Too Beautiful by Noto.


Aries, indicative of the birth sign of both hornmen, has an out-of-tempo intro, reveried by the two rams, that evolves into a restless, modal swinger. Perhaps due to the modal character, traces of Trane and Miles surface here in Romano and Noto, respectively.


A mellow tempo and lovely melodic-harmonic structure mark Upstate Association, Sam evokes Brownie with a gorgeous brass sound and grace-noted accents. Joe lays back and lays on heavy applications of muscular authority and Barry does some controlled stone-skipping on the tops of the cumuli.


Wavelength is a bright treatment of You Stepped Out of a Dream with Romano reading off in anything but a trancelike attitude; Harris working-out in his best chord-devouring manner; and Noto singing through his mouthpiece like a machine gun shooting love bullets. The melodic dancing on the traps is by the delicately powerful Higgins.


Contact may give you That Old Feeling. The feeling it gives me is that of a hip parade band walking it right down Main Street at the point where they're into a second strain, volume down. The horns are lyrical and Barry throws in a Groovin’ High quote to give it the bop of approval. Jones' only solo of the set brings the Pettiford spirit to life.


In a liner note for a Sal Nistico album in the '60's Gene Lees commented on the "gifted group of young musicians to emerge recently from the wilds of upstate New York" and stated: "Trying to figure out why they should have come up in the unpromising vicinity of the Syracuse-Rochester area and all be Italian is probably as futile as trying to learn why a weirdly large number of the world's great concert violinists are not only Jewish, but members of Russian Jewish families from Odessa!"


To Syracuse and Rochester could be added Buffalo, Utica and Troy. The Italian delegation includes J.R. Monterose, Sal Nistico, Gus Mancuso, Sal Amico, Chuck and Gap Mangione, Don Menza, Nick Brignola and, of course, that potent upstate association of Noto and Romano,


This is Noto's Act One in six scenes. Let the play begin.”


Notes: IRA GITLER
Cover Photo: DON SCHLITTEN
Recording: PAUL GOODMAN
Produced & Directed by DON SCHLITTEN