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Tony Mastrull: The Tony Mastrull Project

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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In the late 1960s, the story circulated in Las Vegas that Elvis Presley caught aural wind of an original composition written by a young arranger and which piece was used in the Vegas production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The King was so taken by the tune's emotional power that he offered to buy the chart outright to use as his opening fanfare in his own high-energy shows. Elvis was not successful in his pursuit. However, the incident was indicative of the musical magnetism that emanated from the boundlessly fertile musical mind of Tony Mastrull.

A native Jersey boy and former resident of Montreal, Mastrull, who passed away in 2013 (two weeks after this recording session), was well-known there and elsewhere as a highly innovative —and swinging —arranger/orchestrator and much in-demand copyist. The Tony Mastrull Project was spearheaded to fruition after his passing by Tony's wife, Louise.

Using a nonet format incorporating some of Montreal's finest musicians (and masterfully orchestrating it to perpetrate the illusion of a full big band), The Tony Mastrull Project delivers a dozen outstanding selections, of which four are Mastrull's insightful originals. The ensemble performance throughout the session is swinging, high-energy, inspirational and musically impeccable. Lead trumpet, Dominic Leveille takes no-prisoners command of this swinging unit and the entire crew follows him with indefatigable spirit and electrical emotion. The soloists across the board are superb and the rhythm section burns. This is, hands down, a superior and a very, swinging ensemble ("I Had Rhythm," a superb sax "battle"). They do their namesake proud.

One can instantly tell that Tony Mastrull was an adoring acolyte of some of the greatest writers, arrangers and orchestrators of our time. He brilliantly channels Duke Ellington (on a moody indigo "Back Bay Bumble," (with a neat Richard Gagnon trombone blow) and on a re-invented to a "Lil' Darlin'" tempoed "Take the "A" Train"), Oliver Nelson ("Hoe Down"), and Thad Jones ("A Child Is Born," superbly presented via David Carbonneau's trumpet). However, no plagiarist he, Mastrull's innovative pen spews marvelous sparkling wine from the vintage crop. His flair for delivering alternative rhythmic and textural perspectives —while simultaneously saluting the well-known and worn selections —is his genius and surely will be the legacy that emanates from this marvelous effort.

While Elvis went unfulfilled and might still covet the aforementioned Mastrull original up there in the Upper Room, The Tony Mastrull Project is a superior musical experience that solidifies Mastrull's stature as an artist worthy of regal renown. Viva The Tony Mastrull Project, this outstanding Nonet and, of course, Viva Tony Mastrull!

Track Listing: The Sidewalks of New York; Back Bay Bumble; Hoe Down; One for Nothing; A Child Is Born; I Had Rhythm; All Blues; Full Nelson; Take the “A” Train; Sweet Georgia Brown; Full Nelson (Alternate Take); I Had Rhythm (Alternate Take).

Personnel: Roberto Murray: alto saxophone; Al McLean: tenor saxophone; Richard Gagnon: trombone; Robert Ellis: bass trombone; Dominic Leveille: lead trumpet; David Carbonneau: solo trumpet; Jonathan Cayer: piano; Frederic Grenier: bass; Ugo Di Vito: drums.

Title: The Tony Mastrull Project | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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