It's a pleasant change to be able to see the relationship between an album, the music on it and the way it's played. On his fourth album, tenor saxophonist Greg Piccolo pays "homage" to great rough and ready, blues based, honking R & B tinged and all out swinging sax players like Illinois Jacquet, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Piccolo's friend Red Prysock, with nods along the way to Ben Webster and Lester Young.
On the tunes which pay tribute to the R & B leaning saxophonists, the presence of Reese Wynans's hard driving organ is critical to creating the proper ambience. Then when Piccolo wants to be relaxed, Wynans switches to the piano. The contrast is highlighted with "Handclappin'", a rousing, blaring celebration of the R & B compared to a light, bluesey appropriately named "Soft", a tip of the hat to Lester Young. Young is sure on Piccolo's mind with a lovely blues-based "Lester Smooths It Out". "Over the Rainbow" reveals that Piccolo has a romantic side and can be quite melodic and lyrical. But it's the opener, "Illinois Blows the Blues", that sets the tone for this album. The intensity of Piccolo's playing on this cut takes one's breath away. The repeating of chords, the high note screeches capsulize what was meant by the Rhythm and Blues sax. This one makes one want to roll the rug up and rock and roll 1950's style.
Piccolo has all the credentials to be a leading exponent of this type of sax playing. He spent 25 years with the Grammy nominated Roomful of Blues leaving in 1994 to start his own group. His 1995 album, Acid Blue, was selected by CD Review as one of their top 10 blues albums. This current release does nothing to diminish his leadership on this mode of music and, if anything, strengthens it. Recommended. To learn more about Greg Piccolo or to purchase his albums, visit his Internet site at www.gregpiccolo.com.
Personnel: Greg Piccolo - Tenor Saxophone/Guitar; Reese Wynans - Piano/Organ; Marty Ballou - Bass/Electric Bass; Bobby Ruggiero - Drums; Jeffrey Cashen - Guitar