Rochester NY native Mike Melito is an fine drummer who has been active on the jazz scene for many years. His whose drumming style was inspired by Roy McCurdy, who was an integral part of the jazz groups fronted by both Nat Adderley and Julian Edwin "Cannonball" Adderley. With a wide-ride cymbal beat and fluid phrasing, Melito's drumming style shows to full effect on To Swing Is The Thing. Joining him are several standout New York-based musicians including tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, pianist Jeb Patton and bassist Neal Miner.
The opening two tracks, "You Said It" and "Big Red," are by hard bop trumpeter Tommy Turrentine. The former is a full-blown swinger with a unison trumpet/saxophone opening which is then picked up by Stewart who covers the ground with his smooth tone. Magnarelli then jumps in showing clean articulation beside Patton's solo scampers. Before the closes out, Melito engages in a series of nifty exchanges with other band members. The second track is a vibrant blues line that is fueled by energy and purpose from all band members.
Composer Billy Strayhorn would be hard- pressed to recognize the transformation of his ballad "Lush Life" into the hard-swinging bop version proposed by the group. It is not that it is not well executed (it is), but perhaps it might have been better to leave well enough alone. On the other hand, the Thelonious Monk classic "Ruby, My Dear" is given the reverence it deserves and is the better for it with all the lovely chord changes intact.
The final two cuts are contrafacts (chord changes from a pre-existing compositions with new melodies and arrangements). The first is a composition from Grant Stewart called "Three for Carson" with elements culled from "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing," and the second is a number by Neal Miner entitled "Locke Bop" with "The Best Thing For You" as its foundation. Both titles are appealing swingers and each has an exploratory temperament with built in space that allows each player to seek out unexpected corners. Melito is the locomotive of the flow and pushes the band to be light on their feet but still thoughtful in commitment.
You Said It; Big Red; A Bee Has Two Brains; Blue Key; Lush Life; Make Believe; Ruby My Dear;
Straight Street; Three For Carson; Locke Bop.
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