The Vivino Brothers (guitarist Jimmy and reedman Jerry) front one of the most in-demand session bands in blues today. The brothers also claim one of the best gigs in New York City: They're integral members of the Max Weinberg Seven, Conan O'Brien's house band on NBC. By night Jimmy Vivino is Conan's chief musical arranger. By day he works as a first-call producer (Shemekia Copeland, Son Seals, Johnnie Johnson, Phoebe Snow).
Vivino Brothers Blues Band is actually the duo's third release overall, their second for DMP, and their first as part of an official "blues band." It's also their best. This is a polished yet lively mix of blues, R&B and jazz that's about half instrumentals, half vocal tracks. At times the group sounds like a TV house band, but its live-in-the-studio approach lends the music a very soulful cast.
Original funk-blues instrumentals ("Fat Burns," "Itchin' & Scratchin'") are interspersed with straight-ahead blues classics (Lowell Fulson's "Sinner's Prayer") and old R&B warhorses (Little Richard''s "Slippin' & Slidin'," Curtis Mayfield's "Pusher Man," and Sly Stone's "Family Affair"). Jimmy Vivnino's best vocal performance comes on Lil Green's "Knockin' Myself Out," a 60-year-old acoustic blues tune with a timeless message about substance abuse. Van Morrison's "Feedback Out on Highway 101" is righteously soulful and arguably the best performance on the album. Guided by Jerry Vivino's slippery sax, the instrumental "Livin' In Vain" starts out slowly but skids into a rousing chorus thanks to Brian Charette's funky piano and soul-blasting organ. And Jerry Vivino blows some tasty flute on a fine instrumental treatment of "Pusher Man."
Listening to the Vivinos and their four partners, it's easy to understand why Hubert Sumlin, Johnnie Johnson and other blues stars choose to play with these cats. There's no style of blues or R&B the Vivinos can't play, and their considerable talent never lessens the soul quotient.
Fat Burns; Slippin' & Slidin'; Pusher Man; Knockin' Myself Out; P.D. Bop; Jealous Kind; Feedback Out on Highway 101; Livin; in Vain; Itchin' & Scratchin'; Sinner's Prayer; Family Affair
Jimmy Vivino (guitar, piano, vocals); Jerry Vivino (sax, flute, clarinet, vocals); Michael Merritt (bass); James Wormworth (drums, washboard); Fred Walcott (percussion); Brian Charette (organ, piano)