The Ed Palermo Big Band – I’ve Got News for You: The Music of Edgar Winter
Sky Cat Records SC211001
16 songs – 59 minutes
Most big-band leaders stick to pop, jazz or classical formats, but not alto saxophonist Ed Palermo, a world-class session player who spent four years touring with Afro-Cuban master Tito Puente. He made a big splash in the ‘80s when his orchestra turned Frank Zappa’s compositions into big-band material before doing the same for the Beatles, Todd Rundgren and then, in 2014, teamed with harmonica player Rob Paparozzi for Electric Butter, a well-received tribute to blues greats Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield.
But Palermo’s always credited multi-instrumentalist Edgar Winter — who bridges blues, jazz fusion and rock – and the music he created when Ed was growing up on the Jersey Shore for providing the key that opened the door the unusual musical path he walks today. Even though Winter’s known as a rocker through such songs as “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride,” like Palermo, he’s a horn player who grew up listening to Cannonball Adderley and mixes media through music.
Neither of those songs are present in this collection. While rockers might be disappointed, blues fans can celebrate because this disc serves up a joyous collection of new Palermo arrangements of Winter tunes that delve deeply into blues, jazz and R&B, but interprets it in big-band format.
Ed’s 17-piece lineup includes sax players Cliff Lyons, Phil Chester, Bill Straub, Ben Kono (all of whom double on other instruments) and Barbara Cifelli, trumpet players Ronnie Buttacavoli, John Bailey and Steve Jankowski, trombonists Charley Gordon, Mike Boschen and Matt Ingram, keyboard players Bob Quaranta and Ted Kooshian, electric bassist Paul Adamy and percussionist Ray Marchica.
No effort of this magnitude would be complete without prominent guest stars, too – and they abound. Kim Davis, Vaneese Thomas, Deb Lyons, Keith Anthony Fluitt, Chrissi Poland, Carlos Murguia and Paparozzi all take turns at vocals with Robben Ford and Jimmy Leahy sitting in on guitars and Katie Jacoby on violin.
A brief horn flourish opens “I Hate Everybody,” a boogie culled from Johnny’s ’69 LP, Second Winter. Best known for his work with major Latin talents, Murguia’s at the mic and Leahy delivers a crisp, dynamic mid-tune solo that yields to Palermo’s horn runs to close. “Tobacco Road” is chockful of urban appeal . Delivered by Davis, the former lead singer in Chic, it features fretwork from Ford before yielding to “Peace Pipe,” which reinvents Edgar’s scat into a five-part horn solo that gives Cifelli and Kooshian space to shine.
Envisioned by Winter as a tune that Johnny Carson could use when introducing guests on the Tonight Show, “All Out” is a complex, minor key instrumental pleaser with plenty of twists and turns. It flows into “A Different Game,” which ascends into a different, horn-punctuated dimension as Poland describes a relationship from two divergent points of view. The sound quiets dramatically from the open as Fluitt soars on the familiar ballad, “Dyin’ to Live,” opening as a piano-accompanied ballad and slowly picking up intensity throughout.
The heat kicks up to high when Davis returns to deliver the medium-fast shuffle, “Jump Right Out,” before the mood hushes again with Lyons in command of “Entrance” – the title track of Winter’s debut LP, after an extended instrumental open. Things brighten again with Fluitt at the mic for “Where Have You Gone,” a powerful blues-jazz fusion, before Poland’s featured on both the minor-key “Rise to Fall” and “Fire and Ice,” a stop-time number with dazzling tempo changes and progressions that continue in “Hung Up” with Fluitt on vocals.
“Back in the Blues” cooks from the jump before yielding to “Re-Entrance,” which delivers a positive affirmation about treating each day as a new opportunity to succeed, before the set concludes with Thomas delivering a bluesy take on “You Are My Sunshine” and then powering through “I’ve Got News for You” in concert with Paparozzi.
There’s never a dull moment on this CD. It swings from the jump and takes the blues in directions it doesn’t usually go while remaining pretty faithful throughout. You’ll love it big time if your tastes run to jazz, too. If you’re an old-school traditionalist, however, the musical complexities that it presents might be a little jarring for your tender ears.