Erie Avenue Liner Notes
Being born and raised on Erie Avenue in West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania was one of the best things to happen to Ralph and me. Along with our devoted parents, we were surrounded by caring grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends in a neighborhood that gave us an abundance of freedom, discipline and unconditional love. This recording is our homage to that very special place that has forever shaped our lives and, of course, our music.
The title track represents our “Chitlin’ Circuit” roots that permeate our musical DNA. From James Brown to Sonny Stitt to Don Patterson to Maceo, the roots were firmly planted in Erie Avenue.
Two For Two is a simple contrafact (on Tea For Two) that was written many years ago in a big band setting for Ralph and Joe Lovano, our friend who will always be like another brother to us.
Not a day goes by that we don’t lovingly remember our own mother with the song A Portrait Of Jennie, presented here in her memory.
As this is our first “brothers” record, Gerry Mulligan’s Five Brothers provided a good vehicle for the quartet plus our “fifth brother” Joe Lovano to have some serious fun groovin’ and dancing with Kenny and Peter Washington’s feel, a feel that never fails to elicit smiles for the body and the soul, just like they always do.
Nofrey And Jennie (our parents) loved Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, et al. This one is for them.
Like most college musicians of our generation, we were exposed to many Jazz big bands. Besides Duke, Basie, and Thad and Mel, the repertoire of Woody’s band was important to us in our early years. Thus our rendition of Four Brothers is a thank-you to other musical brothers that include Sal Nistico, Frank Tiberi (the second “A” section of the piano solo is a shout out to Frank!), Gary Smulyan, Glenn Drewes, John Riley, Harold Danko and a host of others.
Till We Meet Again is dedicated to the late, great bassist, Dennis Irwin. Though not biologically related, he was and will always be our brother.
Cedar Walton’s Firm Roots ends our quartet offerings on the recording. With a fertile rhythm section of Peter and Kenny Washington, the rationale for its inclusion here should be obvious.
The next song was written as an ode to spiritual simplicity and peaceful freedom. The Gospel According To… can be anything you want it to be. We feel it represents our St. Joseph’s Parish “altar boy” days, Soulful Catholicism if you will.
When we were kids, we were blessed to be around live music ALL THE TIME with our family and friends. (The wonderful American composer Henry Mancini comes from our neighborhood.) Everybody seemed to sing, dance, play instruments and listen to a plethora of styles resulting in a deeply felt respect for many generations of musical art. So with apologies to every professional singer I ever accompanied we offer a bonus track on the Matt Dennis classic, Everything Happens To Me, a great song suggested by our Uncle Ralph that we learned when we were very young.
The “brothers” theme of this recording actually came about because of a conversation Ralph had with Kenny and Peter Washington (Though they share the same surname, they are NOT related.) at the Saratoga Jazz Festival. As they were the rhythm section on Ralph’s first recording as a leader (Feelin’ and Dealin’ on the Criss Cross label), they discussed a kind of reunion date. The timing was perfect when combined with our desire to record our own project with music reflecting our roots. Then after a bribe of the lovely Roxanne’s lasagna and a respite from his touring schedule, Joe Lovano was kind enough to swing by with his G Mezzo Soprano Saxophone and contribute to the festivities with not only his worldly improvisations on two of the tracks, but also his generous spirit and artistic intuition that permeates this recording.
With Kenny Washington, Peter Washington, Joe Lovano and the superlative engineering of Michael Marciano, we present music that strives to capture our feelings about the home, family and cultural milieu from where we came. We wish for all your own fecund version of life on Erie Avenue.
Special thanks to Nancy Marciano from Systems Two, Chrissy Lalama and Melissa Curra for serving the lasagna, Katie Lalama for the photos, Roxanne Daghlian Lalama for making the lasagna and Nicole Pasternak Lalama for editing these notes and taking care of Ralph.
Final Cadenza from Ralph: I wish to thank Jennie Lalama for the melody, Nofrey Lalama for the rhythm and Dave Lalama for the harmony.