Every town has its homegrown talent worthy of wider recognition. This is definitely true when it comes to Rochester native Mike Melito. Since the age of 16, the drummer has held down the drum chair for countless combos and national acts in and around upstate New York. That he has the chops and know-how to make it in New York City is obvious, but Melito has opted to stay around his home environs and has no problem maintaining a thriving playing and teaching schedule.
Over the years, the drummer has produced his own sessions as a leader that have yielded five previous albums. The latest is yet another accomplished collection that features the type of mainstream fare that he finds an inspiration. Names such as Billy Higgins, Philly Joe Jones, and Art Taylor are part and parcel of Melito's muse and the fact that he can speak in this vernacular while still making an album that is fresh and vital to today is a testament to the many insights gained from such masters.
Pianist Jeb Patton and bassist Neal Miner join forces with Melito to make for an exciting core rhythm team. That Patton is not better known is somewhat curious. He plays with a focused intent and channels the spirit of Sonny Clark on "Five Will Get You Ten," while sporting the vim and vigor of McCoy Tyner on "Up Over and Out." Peter Bernstein is the ringer here however, sprightly strutting his stuff throughout his own original "Jet Stream" and swinging with a vengeance on "Wives and Lovers" to name just a few highlights.
Best known for his work with Harry Connick, Jr., tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon sounds right at home with a sound that is a great hybrid of bebop sensibilities and swing panache. His breathy approach is perfect on a lively bossa rendition of "Indian Summer." He's versatile enough to voice the lead with Bernstein on "The Knife" while also speaking the hard bop language of Hank Mobley's "Up Over and Out." His richly-hued statements on such ballads as "Theme for Ernie" and "I Wished I Knew" are standouts, breathy vibrato and all.
Melito himself favors the wide open sound of the drums with no fancy gimmicks or muffling. His toms ring and are tuned on the high side, not unlike those of fellow contemporary Kenny Washington. His ride cymbals have that dark and crashy sound with less emphasis on stick attack and more on textural colors. He takes some very musical solos, integrating the entire set organically and in a way that complements the whole. That last statement could sum up Melito's approach to the entire set. This doesn't sound like a drummer's record and that's quite a compliment.
Jet Stream; Theme For Ernie; Wives and Lovers; Five Will Get You Ten; Up Over and Out; I Wished I Knew; If Ever I Would Leave You; Indian Summer; Bolivia; The Knife; Blues Okura.
Mike Melito: drums; Jerry Weldon: tenor sax; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Jeb Patton: piano; Neal Miner: bass.