JOHN COCUZZI starring ALLAN VACHÉ:
Swingin' and Burnin'
I love the real deal, the old Fats Waller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw 78s from the swing era. But most recent recreations of 30s and 40s music are too tame for me. Not this CD! This clarinet-vibes combo came burning to playyou hear it in the foot-tapping bounce of Cheek to Cheek, in the bluesy pain that permeates Black and Blue. Cooking, swing-style guitar by D.C. great Steve Abshire. The musicians are top-notch, they cook as a combo, and the sound, even by Mapleshades standards, is sensational a thoroughly delightful album, says the Absolute Sound. (#06652)
All Music Guide:
John Cocuzzi is a versatile, talented multi-instrumentalist jazz musician who, with his quintet, stretches out for an entertaining 60 minutes-plus of solid, straight ahead jazz on this very good album. A Washington, D.C. native, Cocuzzi gained an appreciation of jazz at an early age listening to his record collection and to his father, who was a percussionist with the U.S. Marine Band. Initially studying piano and then drums after hearing Lionel Hampton, vibes were added to his arsenal of instruments. Swingin' and Burnin' revisits the small group swing of the '30s and '40s popularized by Benny Goodman, Hampton, Artie Shaw, and others. Cocuzzi adds his own flavor along with some artful arrangements to such warhorses from the past as "Slipped Disc," "Benny's Bugle," and "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You." On the latter, Cocuzzi shows off his vocal skills along with a boogie woogie piano. "Broadway" epitomizes the adroit swinging of the quintet, with each member of the group getting a chance to show their wares during the seven minutes they devote to this Teddy McRae/Bill Bird melody. The New Orleans idiom is represented on the CD as well with "What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue?" This tune, a favorite of Louis Armstrong, is done slow drag featuring muted vibes' mallet by Cocuzzi working with a very soulful clarinet by Allan Vaché. This track is one of the highlights of the album.
This session is in no way limited to up beat "swingin' and burnin'" pieces. There's some pretty slow stuff here as well. "Ghost of A Chance" features electrically enhanced Cocuzzi vibes, coupled with some imaginative bass by John Previti. "Cheek to Cheek" belongs to veteran Washington D.C. guitar player, Steve Abshire. Abshire, who has graced the albums of jazz diva Ronnie Wells, plays in a calm, flowing fashion bringing out the best this lovely melody has to offer. "Things Ain't What They Used to Be, another slow piece, spotlights a bluesy Cocuzzi piano with Big John Maher's drums laying a solid foundation. Vaché and Cocuzzi, on clarinet and vibes respectively, combine on a striking "Comes Love" with Vaché's impulsive and sometimes wailing clarinet recalling Artie Shaw's 1949 rendition. The album's coda brings Cocuzzi's cheerful voice to the mike again in a pretty rendition of "'Tis Autumn" accompanying himself on the piano and showing a romantic side with the ivories. This is an agreeable ending to a highly recommended album.
CMJ New Music Report:
Swingin' And Burnin' is a set of songs taken from or inspired by the swing style of jazz music's formative years. Recalling Benny Goodman's small groups featuring Lionel Hampton, vibraphonist Cocuzzi and clarinetist Allan Vaché work extremely well together, and the two get great, understated support from guitarist Steve Abshire, bassist John Previti and drummer Big Joe Maher. While this group is not well known, they are seasoned pros whose collective profiles should be raised thanks to this inspired effort. For Fans Of: Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Doc Cheatham. Recommended Tracks: "Broadway," "Crazy About My Baby," "Lady Be Good".
May 22, 2000
There is definitely chemistry between vibist John Cocuzzi and clarinetist Allan Vaché, and it makes tracks such as "Benny's Bugle" and "Broadway" swing with a Goodmanesque élan. The album's highlight is on the latter: two choruses of rhythm-section free vibes and clarinet blues noodlingpure contrapuntal joy. "Black and Blue" has many poignant moments and "Comes Love" really sparkles, with its Latin and straightahead approaches, especially Vaché's jazz chorus. The only collaboration that fails is "Slipped Disc," which has a surprisingly mechanical unison head. Cocuzzi's Latin comping behind guitarist Steve Abshire on "Cheek to Cheek" a montuno on vibesis inspired. Truly inspired is Abshire on "Ghost of a Chance..."
The Absolute Sound:
I'm not a big fan of pre-modern jazz, but this is a title worth taking seriously, a thoroughly delightful album of tunes like "Benny's Bugle," "What Did I Do To Be so Black and Blue" and "Crazy About My Baby," that smacks a smile on your face and doesn't let it fade for more than a minute. The musicians are top-notch, they cook as a combo, and the sound, even by Mapleshade's standards, is sensational. Cocuzzi plays a Forties-era Deagan vibraphone made of steel bars (rather than the lighter aluminum models that followed), and the thing rings and glows like nothing we've heard on record. When Vaché blows his clarinet in the upper register, it's licorice sweet and, since he seems to be standing in the middle of the room, away from the mike, you sense the waves wafting in the air. Abshire strums a hollow-body Guild plugged into a Fender tube amp, and it gives off the warm glow you might expect. The drums have an explosive presence. Cocuzzi sings on a few songs, in a charming Hoagy Carmichael croon, and as those who know Mapleshades can attest, Sprey captures voices best of all.