With each passing day, we read about the loss of one more member of the generation of musicians that constitutes the underpinning of our jazz heritage. It is for that reason that I jump at the opportunity to celebrate those still among us, especially when they are still playing at the top of their form. The fine, 72-year-old, bop-based saxophonist Joe Romano from Rochester, NY, is an excellent example of that genre, as his new, self-produced album This Is The Moment provides ample testimony.
Although not well known except among musicians, having spent most of his career as a freelancer, Romano nonetheless managed to put together a relatively impressive resume during the 1950s to 1970s. He played and recorded periodically with Woody Herman's orchestra from 1956 until the early 1970s. Early on he recorded with baritone horn player Gus Mancuso (1957), worked with Chuck Mangione's Jazz Brothers in the early '60s, and was with Sam Noto in Buffalo (1966-67). In California, he performed and recorded intermittently with the Buddy Rich Big Band (1968-74) and also played with Les Brown (1970-72) and Louie Bellson while living in Los Angeles. After returning to New York, he worked with Noto (recording with him in 1975), Chuck Israels' National Jazz Ensemble (1976), the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra on occasion, and Bellson. His one prior album as a leader was cut for the Spanish Fresh Sound label in 1987. Romano has remained much in demand for bop-oriented dates in the Northeast; both Mangione and drummer Steve Gadd credit Romano for his inspiration and guidance early on in their careers.
This Is The Moment slips into my CD player as comfortably as my feet into their favorite slippers, and for nearly an hour, I wear its music just as felicitously. Despite the 28 years difference in their ages, the two Joes on horns sound as if they've spent a lifetime together, whether playing together or soloing brilliantly, with a rhythm section that was made for them. These are master storytellers, from whom many of today's "young lions" could well take a lesson. The opener evokes the spirit of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet, while the title tune, a seldom heard standard, swings along in as relaxed a manner as you could wish. J. J. Johnson's "Lament" and Sam Coslow's "My Old Flame" are the only other standards on the disc; Romano and Magnarelli each provide an original, while pianist Losito and bassist Miner contribute two each. "Yesteryear" is Romano's, a minor-key cooker, whereas "Epitaph for Sal Amico" is Magnarelli's ballad in tribute to his late trumpet mentor. "Tip Toe" is bright and up-tempo, "Sweet Tooth" a lazy shuffle, and the closer, "Get On It," a tasty blues, swings us satisfyingly home.
Contemplations; This Is The Moment; Yesteryear; Epitaph for Sal Amico; Tip Toe; Lament; Sweet Tooth; My Old Flame; Get On It
Joe Romano (alto and tenor sax), Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Dino Losito (piano), Neal Miner (bass), and Mike Melito (drums)