Moderation is a virtue which pervades You're It!, a date co-led by drummer Mike Melito and pianist Dino Losito. It is a pleasureand a reliefto hear a bop-influenced recording in which jazzmen (three in their middle years and one octogenarian) transcend influences and forge their own standards of performance. The record is impressive in part because of an absence of frenzied, inelegantly swinging tempos, individuals clamoring for attention, and the vociferous sound of competing egos. Rather than peddling artificial excitement and self-gratification in the guise of saluting the jazz tradition, Melito and Losito, along with tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna and bassist Neal Miner, exercise genuinely individual voices and skillsets which foreground cooperation and mutual support.
McKenna employs a medium weight tone which is ideally suited to affable, melodically-oriented bebop and blends nicely with the rhythm section. Brief forays into the horn's upper register widen the sound and generate flashes of excitement. He never keeps the listener at arm's-length, overstays his welcome or attempts to jam everything he knows into a solo. McKenna encourages close attention to every note, phrase and subtle change in direction. His suave, understated take on a portion of the melody of "These Foolish Things" (Losito handles the tune's bridge) speaks to several decades of experience in playing the Great American Songbook. Similarly, while executing the melody and improvising on "I'll Let You Know," he never loses sight of the emotional core of Cedar Walton's ballad.
Not unlike McKenna, Losito's approach to the music encompasses playing well with others. He is an extroverted stylist who nonetheless avoids making any extraneous moves and does not stray from Melito's and Miner's bedrock support. A medium-tempo "For Heavens Sake" improvisation exemplifies his assurance, invention, and ability to operate on the same wavelength as the bassist and drummer. A long chain of ideas on "I'll Let You Know" sounds eloquent, tenacious and tightly wrapped. Losito's turn on a brisk bossa treatment of "You've Changed" deftly unfolds amid Melito's persistent rim knocks and Miner's catchy bass line.
The record's cornerstone is the compatibility between Melito and Miner. Their relaxed, center-of-the-beat propulsion runs deep, puts the music in a positive place and never convulses the band. Melito is the rare trapster who understands that a handful of crisp, strategically placed snare drum accents makes a greater impression than a barrage of pointed strokes. An interesting exception occurs on George Coleman's "Blondie's Waltz," in which pronounced, overlapping snare and bass drum combinations during portions of Losito's solo generate a punchy momentum. Miner's flawless intonation, smart note choices and solid time are evident on every track. One of many highlights is the way in which his walking line positively sings beneath McKenna during the head of "What A Difference A Day Makes."
You're It! exemplifies the merit of jazzmen who have invested decades in refining their artistry within recognizable stylistic parameters. Highly recommended.
You're It; These Foolish Things; Blondie's Waltz; What A Difference A Day Makes; I'll Let You Know;
For Heavens Sake; Afternoon In Paris; You've Changed; Fried Pies.