Luigi Waites won't tell you how old he is. That's a closely guarded state secret. He also won't tell you how many years his band has been playing every Sunday at Mr. Toad. But he will tell you how many Sundays that is; on July 10th, 2005, Luigi, Inc. will have celebrated its 1500th Sunday performance. But you'll have to do the math from there.
The point is, he's been around long enough establish his credentials as an icon of the Omaha music scene. He's also one of the pioneers of that scene. He was the first Black man hired as a teacher at an Omaha music store; he was the first artist invited to teach jazz in the Omaha Public Schools. But you would have to read his resume to know that, because he generally won't tell you those things, either.
If you asked him, Luigi would be the first to tell you that anything good about the playing comes not from him but from the band. While this is typically self-deprecating, this statement has some truth to it, in the sense that Luigi has put together a powerful, skilled, soulful, swinging unit that has forged its skills to white heat in the years they've spent together.
I can say with the utmost confidence that this, their third album, is the band's best. How often can we say that? All too frequently, bands start out with great ideas, then peter out and spend half a career (or more) trying to recapture former greatness. But the ways that Luigi, Inc has progressed over the years makes you wonder why musical evolution isn't the rule rather than the exception.
Throughout this recording, the whole crew demonstrates their power as musicians. Some show their talent as composers or arrangers. But there is also such a thing as being a good bandleader, which is a talent separate from these others. It is its own skill to be able to pick the right combination of people, inspire their best playing, and to keep them together over a period of time. Duke Ellington had it; so did Miles Davis. And clearly Luigi does, too.
Now all we need is a Luigi, Inc. live album. There are many things that the band does on stage that has yet to be captured in the studio. But the record you now have in your hands will more than tide us over until then.