Steps/Mike Mainieri: Smokin' in the Pit/An American Diary: The Dreamings

David Adler By

Sign in to view read count
Steps/Mike Mainieri: Smokin' in the Pit/An American Diary: The Dreamings These two NYC Records releases document the musical evolution of label founder and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. Smokin’ in the Pit, a reissue of a hard-to-find double live album by Mainieri’s jazz supergroup Steps, is stuck in its late 70s moment. It feels like cheap thrills compared to Mainieri’s most recent solo record, An American Diary: The Dreamings, which possesses a timeless quality and manages, despite its wild eclecticism, to tell a coherent and deeply personal story. This album, the second in a series, confirms Mainieri’s status as one of our most imaginative artists.

The playing on Smokin’ in the Pit is impressive, but some of the material is marred by a lack of subtlety and dynamics. Eddie Gomez’s bass is way too high in the mix and Steve Gadd’s drumming is rather stiff, especially on the swing tempos. Joe Henderson’s "Recordame," which was unavailable on LP, is given a weird, disco-like treatment. But newly added alternate takes of the two roof-raising sambas, "Fawlty Tenors" and "Not Ethiopia," showcase some fine playing all around. And fans of the late, great Don Grolnick will want this reissue if only for two previously unreleased Grolnick compositions, "Uncle Bob" and "Momento," the latter an unaccompanied piano solo. These are indeed worth the price of admission, as are Mainieri’s three delightful ballad features, "Lover Man," "Song to Seth," and "Soul Eyes."

The Dreamings is the work of a more refined Mike Mainieri. His principal players are saxophonist George Garzone, bassist Marc Johnson, and supple and swinging drummer Peter Erskine, who took over from Steve Gadd back when Steps became Steps Ahead. These four are joined by a circulating cast of guest musicians. Each track is a wholly new experience, distinguished by unexpected timbres and colors. Especially noteworthy are George Garzone’s clarinet on "One Night In Paradise," Erik Friedlander’s cello on "Planting Rice Is Never Fun," Simon Seven’s didjeradu on "The Dreamings," and Arto Tuncboyan’s sazabo on "Dear, My Friend (The Gift)."

Mainieri’s goal was to explore his musical upbringing in an American immigrant family, as well as his later experiences as a traveling musician. His first American Diary (NYC, 1995) included music by composers ranging from Aaron Copland to Frank Zappa. This diary entry crosses more exotic terrain: folk material from the Philippines and Yemen, as well as original pieces inspired by Australian aborigines, gypsies, and the Navajo and Apache tribes. Mainieri’s use of the term "American" is therefore expansive, and subtly provocative. But the session never comes across as stilted political correctness or aimless "world" music. It swings. And in so doing, it communicates with the listener in a way that is entirely genuine and unaffected.

Cyberhome: www.nycrecords.com

Steps, Smokin’ in the Pit Tracks, disc 1: 1. Tee Bag 2. Uncle Bob (prev. unreleased) 3. Fawlty Tenors 4. Lover Man 5. Fawlty tenors (alternate take) 6. Song to Seth 7. Momento (prev. unreleased).

Tracks, disc 2: 1. Young and Fine 2. Not Ethiopia 3. Soul Eyes 4. Recordame (prev. unreleased) 5. Not Ethiopia (alternate take) 6. Saras Touch.

Personnel: Smokin' in the Pit: Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Steve Gadd: drums; Eddie Gomez: bass; Don Grolnick: piano; Mike Mainieri: vibraphone; special guest: Kazumi Watanabe, guitar (CD2#2.

| Record Label: NYC Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


CD/LP/Track Review
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
Jaco Pastorius Jaco Pastorius
bass, electric
Chick Corea Chick Corea
John Scofield John Scofield
Alphonse Mouzon Alphonse Mouzon
Bobby Hutcherson Bobby Hutcherson
Gary Burton Gary Burton
Spyro Gyra Spyro Gyra
Dave Weckl Dave Weckl
Terje Rypdal Terje Rypdal

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "The Big Shake-Up" CD/LP/Track Review The Big Shake-Up
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 21, 2016
Read "Tie the Stone to the Wheel" CD/LP/Track Review Tie the Stone to the Wheel
by John Eyles
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "EJ: Song Explorations on Acoustic Guitar and Piano" CD/LP/Track Review EJ: Song Explorations on Acoustic Guitar and Piano
by Doug Collette
Published: October 9, 2016
Read "Nearness And You, Duets and Improvisations" CD/LP/Track Review Nearness And You, Duets and Improvisations
by John Sharpe
Published: November 16, 2016
Read "Pass It On" CD/LP/Track Review Pass It On
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 11, 2016
Read "05:21" CD/LP/Track Review 05:21
by Jim Trageser
Published: November 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

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!