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Johnnie Valentino: Stingy Brim

Dan McClenaghan By

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It takes a bit of nerve and some swagger, one would guess, to wear a Stingy Brim hat, one of those straw bowler types with a very limited brim overhang. But guitarist Johnnie Valentine does exactly that.

It also takes a bit a nerve to bring the tuba into a jazz ensemble these days. Back in the early years of jazz, the tuba and the string bass fought it out for control of the music's bottom end, and the string bass won. But the tuba refuses to fade away. The late Lester Bowie used that beefy, if relatively unsupple, brass throb marvelously in his Brass Fantasy ensemble. Bowie had the swagger; but then so does Valentino.

Funky, with a New Orleans vibe, Stingy Brim has a touch of humor (the tuba seems to encourage whismy in the collective sound), but this set is a lot more than a good time roll. A good deal of depth, edginess and a perversely modern lean—given the inclusion of harmonium, clarinet and tuba—inserts itself into this set of ten Valentino originals (two tunes are co-written with keyboardist Mick Rossi). Listen to the dark-toned "4AM," with Valentino's guitar stinging into the deep tuba grooves while Mick Rossi's B3 blows a cold storm around them.

Valentino has crafted an interesting group sound. I've referred to the tuba as "relatively unsupple," this in terms of comparison to the string bass; but Randy Jones is a deft and, yes, supple practitioner of that big swirl of brass with the big fat dish at its end. And Bob Sheppard, on clarinet and tenor sax, sounds particularly inspired from start to finish, doing more than his share to add a forward lean to the mix.


Track Listing: Stingy Brim; Dog Eggs; Oyster Bay; 4AM; Return; Stone Balloons; Where When & How; Coyote Cowboy; Off Balance; All Monk's Children.

Personnel: Johnnie Valentino: guitar, mandolin; Mick Rossi: Hammond B3 organ, harmonium, percussion; Mark Ferber: drums, percussion; Bob Sheppard: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Randy Jones: tuba.

Title: Stingy Brim | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: OmniTone

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