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Vinnie Zummo: The Coyote

Mark Sullivan By

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Guitarist Vinnie Zummo is best known for his long association with singer/songwriter Joe Jackson. He appeared on every Jackson album from Body and Soul (A&M, 1984) through Blaze of Glory (A&M, 1989), returning for The Duke (Razor & Tie Recordings, 2012). The Coyote is mostly original compositions (several of them new arrangements of tunes from earlier Zummo albums), and it's bebop all the way...although his old boss does make a guest appearance. The core sound comes from Zummo's guitar with a trio, most often consisting of bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Ray Marchica. The album cover says "featuring horn arrangements by Gary Anderson," and with good reason. Anderson's Supersax-style harmonized three-part horn arrangements adorn most of the tracks, augmenting not only the heads, but a substantial number of Zummo's solo guitar passages as well. It's a remarkable sound, and it elevates the proceedings into a different class from the average bebop guitar album.

You can tell by the cover choices that it's a jazz album. First there's the infrequently played 1944 standard "Candy," notably done by trumpeter Lee Morgan on Candy (Blue Note, 1958) and by The Manhattan Transfer on their self-titled album (Atlantic/WEA, 1975). The other is John Coltrane's notoriously difficult "Giant Steps" from the album of the same name (Atlantic, 1960). There's plenty of variety in the originals, too. "Afternoon Hang" is a languid blues; "On The Groove" is Latin (benefiting from Bashiri Johnson's percussion); and "Retro Fuso" and "Funk 4 Da Monk" have a clear funk feel.

The album doesn't rely on its guest list for attention, but there are significant contributions. The title tune features bassist Will Lee (of the Late Show with David Letterman band) and pianist Gary Deinstadt (who also plays a fine solo, breaking up the guitar sound a bit). Zummo plays the drums on this one, turning in a completely convincing performance. "Retro Fuso" has Joe Jackson on organ and clavinet, fellow Jackson band mate bassist Graham Maby, drummer Matty Amendola, and Bill Stuart on percussion. "About 116" features well known vibraphonist Mike Mainieri (great guest solo as well), bassist Mark Egan, and another drum part by the leader. Zummo plays both guitars and bass on "Funk 4 Da Monk" with Todd Sucherman on drums.

Zummo goes it alone on two tracks, showing what the album might have sounded like. "Retro Fuse" employs overdubbed harmonized guitars in place of the saxophone section. And the "No sax mix" of the blues "Afternoon Hang" makes a convincing case for the basic guitar trio. But the harmonized saxophone section was a great idea, brilliantly executed. Extra points for both great guitar playing and unique arranging.

Track Listing: The Thing Is This; The Coyote; Afternoon Hang; Candy; On The Groove; Retro Fuso; Sophistry; Giant Steps; About 116; Funk 4 Da Monk; Afternoon Hang (No sax mix).

Personnel: Vinnie Zummo: guitars, drums (2,9), bass (10); Gary Anderson: saxophones, horn arrangements; Cameron Brown: bass; Ray Marhica: drums; Will Lee: bass (2); Gary Deinstadt: piano (2); Charles McNeal: alto sax (3); Bashiri Johnson: percussion (5); Graham Maby: bass (6); Joe Jackson: organ, clavinet (6); Matty Amendola: drums (6); Bill Stuart: percussion (6); Gerald Cannon: bass (8); Mark Egan: bass (9); Mike Mainieri: vibes (9); Todd Sucherman: drums (10).

Title: The Coyote | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Vaz Music

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