SAL NISTICO QUINTET: COMIN’ ON UP!
SAL NISTICO QUINTET
Sal Amico (tp) Sal Nistico (ts) Barry Harris (p) Bob Cranshaw (b) Vinnie Ruggiero (drs)
Plaza Sound Studios, NYC; October 17, 1962
By Myself (5:57)
Comin’ on Up (5:30)
Easy Living (1) (5:30)
Not too long ago, I was sitting with a friend in New York’s Metropole, listening to the superb Woody Herman band.
The Herd was playing one of its most fervid compsitions, the rhythm section was cooking, and a pair of normally undermonstrative jazz critics at a nearly table were finger-popping and grinning and holding their urge to shout in severe control.
A young tenor player moved to the mike. Short, big-chestedmbig-shouldered, he looked as if e would woth sheer muscularity burst out of his black continental suit. He took a deep breath, shut his eyes braced himself as if to pain, and began blowing one of the widest tenor solos anybody ever heard. His tone was big – huge, in fact. And he had wonderful control of the horn. He would alternate beautifully-timed rhythmic pauses alive could excel for articulation.
“Who,” said my friend in wonder, “is he?”
“Sal Nistico,” I said.
My friend, Seymour Krim, is a noted literary critic and editor, and an enthusiastic if somewhat itemperate jazz fan. Now one would think literary critics a more conservative lot than jazz critics, and maybe they are. But Seymour is one of life’s mavericks, a marvelous nut, and he did what the more inhibited jazz critics at the nearby table felt like doing. After a pause to digest Sal’s name, he let his voice ring out through the Metropole.
“Go, Sal Nistico!” he hollered.
Since then I have been unable to hear Sal’s name without prefixing it in my mind with Go. For that is the way Sal plays. The wild enthusiasm of his performance communicates itself instantly. Here is no musician demanding you take a two-year course in the technical mysteries of music before you sit down to give your undivided attention to his pallid musings. Sal turned my friend Seymour Krimon in about 16 bars.
A while after that, I was working o an article on Woody’s band for Down Beat and noted that the herd “suffered an unfortunate loss when Sal Nistico, a brilliant young tenor player from Syracuse, N.Y., left. Nistico is still in New York, hanging around with the free-jazz set, and working occasionally on baritone. The bad lost an important soloist; he lost an important showcase for his still-developing talent.”
If there was a edge of sarcasm I the comment, it was, (a) because “free jazz” is an exciting theory that has produced some incomparably dull music, and (b) I thought Sal was crazy to leave Woody. For working with Woody – one of the most sympathetic and yet firm-handed of band-leaders, wise in the ways of the music business, which is probably the toughest and nastiest in the world – Nistico was acquiring disciplines he would later find valuable. He was learning about audiences, learning not to fluff them the way young musicians who have grown up entirely in small groups are often prone to do. He was learning to play with and among other musicians of high caliber but most important, he was getting an exposure to the public he couldn’t buy if he hired 76 trombone-playing press agents.
Evidently Sal arrayed at a similar conclusion. Before the article appeared on newsstands, he was back with the band, demolishing the reserve of audiences of everywhere, to the obvious delight of Woody and such Herdsman as lead trumpeter Bill Chase, who said: “The sax section needed him. He makes them play. They’d been laying back, but Sal won’t let that happen. He’s charging all the time.”
Sal is a member of a gifted group of young musicians to emerge recently from the wilds of Upstate New York. It includes the brothers Chuck and Gap Mangione (on whose “Jazz Brother” album on Riverside Nistico made his first appearances on records) and two of the other players of the present LP – drummer Vinnie Ruggiero and Sal Amico.
(Trying to figure out why they should have come up in the unpromising vicinity of the Syracuse-Rochester area and all e Italian is probably as futile as trying to learn why a weirdly large number of the world’s great concert violinists are not only Jewish, but members of Russian Hewish families from Odessa!)
There is something to regionalism in music, although the inner workings of it evade me. Detroit players, of whom Barry Harris is one, have certain things in common. As Pepper Adams, a member of the group, pointed out recently, they all have an extensive knowledge of chords. “Not that they’re necessarily chordal players,” he said, “but they do have this knowledge.”
Chicago of late has been pumping a stream of vigorous young players into the sometimes tired blood of modern jazz. One of these is Bob Cranshaw, a bassist I used to see in South side sessions when I was living in Chicago. More recently, I seem to see him everywhere in New York – in clubs, on record dates -and he is beginning to be much respected.
Of the group from Upstate New York, Nistico is the one whose talent has moved furthest toward maturity. I feel he is one of the finest young tenor players to emerge in years – and the finest young white tenor player. many fans may put him into the Sonny Rollins/John Coltrane frame of reference, simply because he has a big and virile sound, but actually his sound reminds me most of Gene Ammons. Yet oddly enough he puts me most in mind of a great Italian tenor player of the 1940s – Vido Musso. For one thing, he looks like him when he’s playing. And Musso approached the horn the same way – and with an open ad sometimes florid and, I guess, Italianate emotionality that Sal also has.
But comparisons are annoying, certainly to the young performer who is enduring them while people get to know him. Sal is pretty much is own man already. His playing is always abandoned, yet he is as sure-footed as a mountain goat. And my emphasis on his ability to “go” should be taken as an attempt to typecast him as an up-tempo man. His direct and aggressive style is effective over a wide range of speeds – note for example his work on the ballad Easy Living.
Sal Amico is a young trumpeter I’d never heard until I received the acetate copy of this album. I was quite pleasantly surprised by him. He is as different from Nistico as night from day. Comparatively restrained, a little on the cautious side, he is a lyrical player of considerable sensitivity who is heard to advantage on the charming waltz Ariescene (written, incidentally, by Herman trombonist Paul Fontaine, and named in reference to the zodiac sign of Ares, under which both tenorman and composer were born).
But enough of all this verbiage. I think I’ll trick the disc on the phonograph again. I suggest you do the same.
Yeah, go, Sal Nistico!
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS.
Recording Engineer: Ray Fowler (Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City.)
Album design: Ken Deardoff. back-liner photos by SteveSchapiro.
NOTE: (1) S. Amico out
all 7 titles also on WWLJ-7023
RM(S9)-457 “Comin’ On Up” Produced by Orrin Keepnews; recording Engineer: Ray Fowler
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
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