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The tuba makes a comeback on Johnnie Valentino's modern mainstream jazz adventure, Stingy Brim. His program of original compositions features a creative quintet with nonstandard instrumental voices: guitar, tuba, organ, drums, and clarinet or tenor saxophone. Together, they create a whirlwind of saucy jazz with a contemporary flavor that travels no specific timeline. Slight echoes from the distant past mingle with a little of today and a considerable amount of tomorrow's music, as Valentino's progressive outlook casts a broad shadow.
The guitarist, from South Philadelphia, paid his dues on the East Coast jazz scene before relocating to Los Angeles. He's remained prolific as both a composer and performer, drawing consistently from a palette of new ideas for several decades.
Stone Balloons features Bob Sheppard's fluid clarinet in a rollicking affair that dances over Randy Jones' twinkle-toes tuba. At Valentino's urging, the quintet moves gingerly, recalling the dramatic textures from our more adventurous classical composers. Monk runs through a considerable portion of the program as well, and the leader ensures that his music is never pigeonholed toward any specific area. He's progressive and exciting, and his music gives jazz a thrilling flavor.
Off Balance opens with a mysterious conversation between tuba and the rest of the band. It's one-sided, since the tuba holds its own under all circumstances. The harmonium adds a chilling presence as the piece wanders slowly through misty fields of tall grass. His quirky "All Monk's Children invites a favorable comparison to like-minded progressive jazz outfits, but Valentino's organization has no peer.
What, When & How features Sheppard's laid-back tenor in a rush of eclectic moods, while "Coyote Cowboy drives straight ahead in a fiery display of guitar passion. Valentino communicates through his instrument with the emotional fervor of an inspired preacher on Sunday morning. His band responds in kind with glad feelings all around.
Stingy brim? Maybe, but this highly recommended session isn't stingy, and it's brimming with excitement.
Track Listing: Stingy Brim; Dog Eggs; Oyster Bay; 4M2; Return; Stone Balloons; Where, When & How; Coyote Cowboy; Off Balance; All Monkís Children.
Personnel: Johnnie Valentino: guitar, mandolin; Mick Rossi: organ, harmonium, percussion; Mark Ferber: drums, percussion; Bob Sheppard: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Randy Jones: tuba.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.