The peppy squeal of a saxophone played in the soprano register, a cheesy hotel lounge organ sashays in the background, the drummer sounds like he’s perpetually half a beat behind. I’m honestly hoping for a cowbell solo, but there’s no such relief in sight. Who would be knocked out by this self-indulgent display other than a sax player whose last name happens to be Vivino? If you dig some late-night talk-show television music, then this one just might be for you.
I admit right now I have a limited listening capacity to saxophone played in certain keys. Rather than being aided by an audiophile quality recording, “Fat Burns” is nearly killed dead because of the confusing wash of frequencies bouncing about creating new unanticipated rhythms and sounds all recorded with startling clarity. Whatever the drummer was doing was drowned out. The tune improves when guitarist Jimmy Vivino shows his diversity of riffs, licks, passes, changes, and chops and sticks in a surprisingly inspired solo of his own, bailing like a real trooper to keep that tune from sinking completely. His solo in turn inspired the organist to step out a bit on his. That’s enough to prove to me Jimmy is a sensitive and talented ensemble player and is loyal to music. He gets points.
The record improves when that first song ends. The music improves when Jerry on saxophone confines himself to the bop formula of following chords like on “P.D. Bop” or sticks to lower registers and stops commandeering the conversation. When he literally plays “low down” instead of sounding like he’s playing from his chest, he sounds like he can be sincere about what he’s doing. But the name of the game with “jazz-funk” is a small group led by a saxophone or keyboard.
My overall impression is these guys have played together too much and too long for any of this to sound fresh, and that has to be one of the worst hardships a group can face, especially when they rely on each other to make a relatively good living. Although Jimmy sounds like he still has some genuine interest and would probably enjoy and benefit from playing more traditionally styled blues with a lot of different people.
// Notes from the Road
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