The maturity and depth of Michael Amendola 's debut solo recording Big Sunflower
will come as no surprise to those familiar with the saxophonist. He's been around the jazz block, having arranged music for luminaries like Benny Golson, Mulgrew Miller, Randy Brecker, Terence Blanchard, and Buster Williams. A graduate from the Berklee College of Music, his credits include compositions for stage, commercials, and other productions.
With music that reflects strong modern swing elements, his compositions are fresh and open. His septet has what Amendola calls an organic affinity, and the recording reveals a tight unit of musicians who clearly enjoy performing together. Phil Palombi is a formidable bassist, playing in the pocket on the up-tempo “Jerilyn,” where he also offers a mean bass solo. Pianist Rick Germanson performs with delicate grace on “New Avenue,” using just the right touches to evoke a variety of textures. Drummer Keith Hall adds spice with his drum kit on the quirky “No Wake” as Amendola spins a soprano message.
The interesting and textured arrangements on “A Mixed Blessing “ and “House of Jade” rely upon the blending of clarinet, flute, and trumpet in the background. Amendola’s tenor voice is warm and expressive, and his solos range from lengthy burners to heartfelt rumination on the poignant “You’re My Everything.” The hip, thoughtful, and true-swinging music on Big Sunflower consistently bursts with color, providing enjoyment all the way.
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Personnel: Michael Amendola - Tenor and Soprano Saxophones; Rich Germanson - Piano;
Phil Palombi - Bass; Keith Hall - Drums; Russ Johnson - Trumpet;
Sam Furnace - Flute; Dave Riekenberg - Clarinet