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Tony Vacca: Three Point Landing

Jack Bowers By

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I first heard saxophonist Tony Vacca almost fifteen years ago with Rob Parton's JazzTech Big Band. He impressed me then, and has done so again with Three Point Landing, whose title denotes Vacca's journey from Chicago through New Orleans to Phoenix, Arizona, where he now lives, performs and teaches.

The album was obviously recorded during Vacca's brief stay in New Orleans, as his rhythm section consists of three of that recently devastated city's finest musicians, while trumpeter Irvin Mayfield (of Los Hombres Calientes), who co-produced the date with Vacca, enlarges the quartet to five on Vacca's cleverly named "Shoe Suede Blues and rising alto star Aaron Fletcher is a guest on the standard "You Don't Know What Love Is. That's one of three enchanting ballads, the others being Johnny Green/Ed Heyman's classic "Body and Soul and Vacca's brooding "Don Quixote." Besides "Suede Blues and "Quixote," Vacca wrote "Samba de Baca, "Cerromar, "On Bourbon Street and "No More School. Rounding out the persuasive program is Stanley Turrentine's flavorful "Sugar. Surprisingly, Vacca's half-dozen compositions are as impressive and likable as anything on the album.

Vacca employs his main axe, the tenor, on seven of the ten selections, flute on "Cerromar and "Quixote, alto on "Suede Blues, and is superb on each of them. There are echoes of Turrentine and Houston Person in his bold, red-blooded tenor, as well as modernists such as Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and Don Menza and young lions Eric Alexander, Chris Potter and David Sanchez. But Vacca has his own vernacular, and even though he doesn't live in New York or LA, he'd have no problem finding steady work in either place, as his playing is clearly up to that level.

Mayfield deserves credit for enlisting the services of bassist Roland Guerin, drummer Jason Marsalis and especially pianist Peter Martin, a splendid accompanist whose solos are invariably hip and swinging. Mayfield plays with warmth and vitality on "Suede Blues, as does Fletcher, trading shimmering choruses with Vacca on "Love Is. Guerin and Marsalis are given only one chance to showcase their chops, but make the most of it on the strutting "Bourbon Street.

As Mayfield writes in the liner notes, Vacca "plays with the urban hustle and drive of Chicago, lends his ballads the space of Arizona, and "now the soul of New Orleans is imbued in his music —as apt a summary as is likely to be advanced, reinforced by as smooth a Three Point Landing as one could envision. Sound quality is first-rate, as is the 60:51 playing time.


Track Listing: Samba de Baca; Shoe Suede Blues; Body and Soul; Cerromar; On Bourbon Street; Don Quixote; No More School; You Don

Personnel: Tony Vacca: tenor and alto saxophones, flute; Irvin Mayfield: trumpet (2); Aaron Fletcher: alto saxophone (8); Peter Martin: piano; Roland Guerin: bass; Jason Marsalis: drums.

Title: Three Point Landing | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Half Note Records


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