Excellence in Jazz

Hosted By Gary G. Vercelli, Dennis Newhall, Victor Forman

The Giants of Mainstream Jazz plus today's most exciting straight-ahead emerging artists with contemporary vocals and spices of Blues and Latin Jazz.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015 Permalink

Excellence In Jazz Playlist, May 20, 2015


Tonight at 8 p.m. an interview with the authors, rebroadcast Thursday at 11 a.m. on www.jazzstream.org.

Bebop, Swing, and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experience

By Gary G. Vercelli

Aside from being great jazz musicians, what do Steve Gadd, Louie Bellson, Flip Phillips, Tony Scott, and Frank Capp have in common? You wouldn’t know it from their last names, but each of these talented gentlemen are of Italian heritage.  Sometimes names were changed (Americanized) for the sake of simplicity or fitting in (for it always hasn’t been as popular to be Italian as it is today). Thus, Cappuccio became Capp, Sciacca became Scott, and Balassoni became Bellson. Steve Gadd’s mother’s maiden name was Deliberti, her family having emigrated from Palermo.

Bebop , Swing , & Bella Musica

In their recent book “Bebop, Swing, and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experience,” co-authors Bill Dal Cerro and David Anthony Witter document “the many cultural barriers Italian-American musicians faced in the pursuit of the American Dream.” They also postulate that the importance of melody and harmony to those of Italian extraction make for a common bond in their interpretation in any music, be it opera, popular music, or jazz.

In this 383 page reference treasure, famous singers such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett are profiled along with lesser known but important contemporary improvisers such as Frank Catalano, Jerry Bergonzi, and Joey Calderazzo. The authors point to several examples of Sinatra’s and Bennett’s contribution to the civil rights movement as well as their commitment to playing a vital role in the integration of jazz.

But were Sinatra and Bennett jazz singers? The authors say yes, pointing to their ability to swing and to phrase like instrumentalists. Both singers acknowledged Billie Holiday as a strong influence. The chapter on Sinatra suggests he once anonymously posted bail for Miles Davis and that, years after that, on at least one occasion Sinatra and Davis hung out together at Jilly’s in New York.

In the interview with Joe Lovano, the Grammy-winning saxophonist acknowledges, “Jazz has a specific root – the African American experience – but it’s also about the branches of the tree. Jazz is about cultures coming together, inspiring each other, which is what makes it so beautiful.”

One of the most enjoyable chapters in the book details the rise of Louis Prima, from his roots in New Orleans, to his legendary appearance at New York’s Famous Door in 1935 (pianist Art Tatum was the opening act), to the hottest lounge entertainer in Las Vegas. Interestingly, Prima was the only white artist to appear at The Apollo Theatre in Harlem and The Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, before all black audiences.

While popular culture acknowledged Prima as a popular entertainer with a sharp wit and sense of humor, this book also points to his jazz credentials as a composer (Sing, Sing, Sing), trumpeter, and leader of a band with a relentless driving beat that often changed tempos at the drop of a hat. Prima’s signature shuffle beat and Keely Smith’s cool phrasing, plus their unique chemistry and daring sense of humor made for a combustible experience on stage. And Louie “brought it” at every performance, no matter the size of the crowd.

This book also has a chapter on Italians in jazz and women in jazz, so singer Roberta Gambarini, and saxophonist Ada Rovati are praised along with trumpeter Enrico Rava, bassist Giovanni Tomasso, and the many younger musicians on the scene in Italy who they have inspired.

“The book is not just about jazz,” says Dal Cerro. “It’s about the immigrant experience, the racial experience in America in the 20th century. It’s about people and not just music.”


Sam Pannunzio: Goin' Home (Dvorak) BUY from Goin' Home
Paul Desmond: October BUY from From the Hot Afternoon
Neils-Henning Orsted Pedersen: The Shadow of Your Smile BUY from Friends Forever: In Memory of Kenny Drew
Mary Stallings: Close Your Eyes BUY from Fellin' Good
Rossano Sportiello: Don't Love Me BUY from It's A Good Day
The Koblas Kesecker Ensemble: No Gravity BUY from No Gravity
Poncho Sanchez: Angel BUY from El Mejor
Sara Gazarek w/John Pizzarelli: Blossom & Bee BUY from Blossom & Bee
Grant Stewart: Raincheck BUY from Grant Stewart Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington And Billy Strayhorn
Oliver Jones: In The Key Of Geoff BUY from Just For My Lady
Monty Alexander, Ray Brown & Herb Ellis: I Want to Be Happy BUY from Trio
Roberta Gambarini & Hank Jones: Something To Live For BUY from You Are There
George Shearing: The Things We Did Last Summer BUY from At Home
Steven Kroon: Where There Is Love BUY from On The One
Ben Sidran: Blue Camus BUY from Blue Camus
Donald Harrison: Mr. Cool Breeze BUY from Free To Be
Cyrus Chestnut: Yemenja BUY from A Million Colors In Your Mind
Carmen McRae: Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry BUY from Bittersweet
Joe Gilman: G-Flat Theme BUY from Time Again: Brubeck Revisited, Vol. 2
Russell Malone: Your Zowie Face BUY from Love Looks Good On You
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser BUY from Straight, No Chaser
Harold Mabern: Afro Blue (feat. Gregory Porter) BUY from Afro Blue
Joey Alexander: My Favorite Things BUY from My Favorite Things
Tom Harrell: Fountain BUY from Light On
Lauren Kinhan: Chaussure's Complex BUY from Circle In A Square
Roberta Piket: All The Things You Are BUY from Emanation (Solo: Volume 2)
Stanley Turrentine: Speed Ball BUY from The Best Of Stanley Turrentine
Sonny Clark: Sonny's Mood BUY from Dial S for Sonny
Dena DeRose: Why Did I Choose You? BUY from Travelin' Light
Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes: Little Glory BUY from Double Portrait
Quincy Jones: Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me (feat. Phil Collins) BUY from Q's Jook Joint
Gordon Goodwin: The Passage BUY from Life In The Bubble
Art Pepper: Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered BUY from Modern Art
John Coltrane: Wise One BUY from Crescent
Dr. Lonnie Smith: Falling In Love BUY from In The Beginning
Pharoah Sanders: Astral Traveling BUY from Thembi
Beegie Adair: Maybe September BUY from The Good Life: A Jazz Piano Tribute To Tony Bennett
Danilo Perez: Across The Crystal Sea BUY from Across The Crystal Sea

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