Multi-reed player Jerry Vivino should be a familiar face to many due to his long-term membership in the Max Weinberg 7, the band that provides the music for Late Night with Conan O'Brien five days a week on NBC. Most of his partners on this new album are connected with the Max Weinberg group or the Saturday Night Live band. Vivino has been a busy studio musician for years and has co-led the Vivino Brothers Band with his brother Jimmy (also a member of the Max Weinberg 7).
Vivino has played in the New York area in many guises of popular music: pop, funk, rock, R&B and jazz. When singer Keely Smith appeared on the Conan O'Brien Show, she asked for a saxophonist who could play in the style of Sam Butera (the longtime musical director/saxophonist for Louis Prima). Smith was so impressed that she worked with Vivino for several years.
Although he has appeared on scores of albums, this is only Vivino's second recording as a leader. The eleven original tracks showcase his many approaches and styles, and the liner notes maintain that the artist considers himelf to be in the "Louis Armstrong-Louis Prima-Louis Jordan" lineage.
Walkin' With The Wazmo begins with a version of Sonny Rollins' "Pent Up House," followed by the title tune, a hook-laden jump blues with vocals that indeed could have appeared in the Louis Jordan Tympany Five songbook. Unfortunately, the catchy piece seems to be a "one joke" riff that goes on for almost five minutes. Guest trumpeter Lew Soloff appears on two tracks, the bop-style "Cats 'R' Us," where he rips into a high register solo, and "Red Moon," where he plays with a plunger and sounds like a millennium version of Bubber Miley.
Vivino also makes several appearances on flute. On effective Latin lite tune "Dorado Beach" he is joined by percussionist Fred Walcott. Brian Charette takes a turn on the Hammond B-3 on the funkified "The Fried Piper," which reminds me of Hubert Laws' 1970s CTI material when he was seeking a pop/fusion audience. Jerry Vivino also shows the vocal side of his talents on two tracks, the Louis Jordan standard "Knock Me A Kiss" and the love song "I'm Mad About You," co-written with Ken Levinsky, who accompanies the saxophonist on piano.
These versatile musicians play in a variety of settings on the album, much as the members of the other late-night musical aggregations would. It would be easy to imagine ensembles led by Paul Shaffer or Kevin Eubanks making a similar album. As a leader and soloist, Vivino seems clearly aligned with an R&B influence. Without too much effort, I can picture him in a setting from fifty years ago, "walking the bar" with Willis "Gatortail" Jackson.
Track Listing: Pent Up House; Walkin' with the Wazmo; Cats 'R' Us; Dorado Beach; Montelena Circle; The Fried Piper; Knock Me A Kiss; Red Moon; Bellissima; Dolphin Dance; I'm Mad About You.
Personnel: Jerry Vivino: tenor, alto saxophone, flute & vocals; Brian Charette: piano (1,3-5), Hammond
B-3 organ; Ken Livinsky: piano (11); Lew Solof: trumpet (3,8); Michael Morreale: trumpet
(2,7); Mike Fahn: trombone (1,5,7); Kermit Driscoll: bass (1,3,5,8,9); Mike Merrit: bass
(2,6,4,7,10); Shhawn Pelton: drums (1,3,5,8-9); James Wormworth: drums (2,4,6,7,10);
Ray Marchia: drums (11); Fred Walcott: percussion (4,6); Jimmy Vivino: guitar (2); Peter
McCan: guitar (9): Greg Skaff: guitar (11); Tony Ferrari: vocals (2).
Jazz is for me the most important cultural revolution of the 20th century and I'm proud to
play this kind of music. For me, jazz is more than a kind of music, it's the best way of playing
any musical material.