345

Joey DeFrancesco: Joey DeFrancesco's Goodfellas

Ed Kopp By

Sign in to view read count
You can just imagine a pitchman trying to sell this concept to the suits: "OK, everybody, here's the plan: We find us three Italian jazzers. We have 'em play tunes popularized by famous Italian Americans — Old Blue Eyes and a couple more. We even throw in some old-country favorites — "O Solo Mio" and such. The cover photo is the clincher! Listen to this: We dress the boys up like gangsters! We sit ‘em down in an Italian restaurant with their backs to the wall, heaping plates of pasta staring them in the face. They glare at the camera with that "get outta my face or die" look. We release the thing on Columbus Day. What a concept! Hell, every spags-and-balls joint in America will want to play this one for atmosphere!"

I'm as cynical as sin when it comes to the music biz, but Joey DeFrancesco and company immediately won me over with Goodfellas. Actually conceived by DeFrancesco, this album is not without kitsch. But it's also a hell of a lot of fun, and fun is one adjective rarely used to describe mainstream jazz. Most importantly for jazz purists, Goodfellas really swings.

Teamed with guitarist Frank Vignola and swing-bop drummer Joe Ascione, B-3 master DeFrancesco plunges headlong into the music of his ethnic heritage. The CD opens appropriately with "Speak Softly Love," better known as the "Godfather Theme," which is given a pretty yet bluesy treatment. "Volare and" "Fly Me to the Moon" swing ferociously. The aria "O Solo Mio" is infused with a medium-tempo swing beat, while "Malefemmena" manages to sound funky and traditional at the same time — and man, does it end with a flourish! Toss in slow romantic tracks like "All The Way" and "Young At Heart," the boppish "Evidence," (I didn't know Monk was Italian) and the bluesy swinging originals "Wack 'Em," "Goodfellas," and "See What I'm Sayin'," and this one is like a heaping plate of manicotti with marinara: zesty yet substantial.

Frank Vignola returns to form after Deja Vu, his lamentable foray into smooth jazz. There's more than a bit of Joe Pass in his tasteful playing on "Young At Heart," and he delivers a wonderfully imaginative solo on Monk's "Evidence." He and DeFrancesco smartly trade fours on many of these tunes. Ascione never stops swinging. But this is mostly DeFrancesco's show, Joey's an absolute dynamo. Whether pushing the envelope on the fast songs or gently caressing a ballad with his full-bodied instrument, the man's a force of nature.

Also credit Vinnie the Nose for some truly hilarious liner notes.

Goodfellas is half Louis Prima, half Jimmy Smith. Momma mia, that's a spicy jazz music!

Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Of Earth And Sky" CD/LP/Track Review Of Earth And Sky
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 23, 2016
Read "A Room of One's Own" CD/LP/Track Review A Room of One's Own
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 8, 2016
Read "Hotel Cinema" CD/LP/Track Review Hotel Cinema
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 3, 2016
Read "Habana Dreams" CD/LP/Track Review Habana Dreams
by James Nadal
Published: July 5, 2016
Read "Sunshine Seas" CD/LP/Track Review Sunshine Seas
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 22, 2016
Read "Dare to Be" CD/LP/Track Review Dare to Be
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: August 8, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!