Bob Wilber /Glenn Zottola The Bechet Legacy "Birch Hall Concerts" by Nick Mondel
The Bechet Legacy – Bob Wilber/Glenn Zottola by Nick Mondello
Picture being with a group of young 21st Century musicians - say sax and trumpet players for argument’s sake - and they’re telling you that they’re bored to the gills with their current jazz listening fare. You know, that material that’s so over-intellectualized, electri-fried, contrived and ungodly sterile that, irrespective of tempo and groove, it just doesn’t move them - and worse - it doesn’t swing for them. Then, pull out this live recording, play it for them and watch their reaction. That would be not only an instantaneous and very swinging history lesson, but also an epic enlightenment and intro to both legendary jazzer, Sidney Bechet and the world-class musicians that comprise the Bechet Legacy – Bob Wilber, Glenn Zottola and crew, including fine vocalist Pug Horton, Mrs. Wilber.
Recorded live in 1991 at a series of Birch Hall concerts in England (where Wilber currently resides), this double-CD offers a hugely satisfying evening’s worth of the hottest jazz this side of the Sol. 23 – a number apropos for a very prime effort – classic selections associated with Bechet, Armstrong, Ellington and Goodman are magnificently performed with a hot-wire electricity that a studio effort can’t touch.
Bechet - one of the first inhabitants of the jazz pantheon - was an inspiration, teacher and mentor to Wilber and it shows demonstratively here. Wilber’s soprano (and clarinet) sound is full and rich, Bechet-tinged, dripping with virtuosity and heat (“Oh, Lady Be Good,” “The Mooche,” “China Boy”). Unfamiliar with Bechet, Kids? You’ll hear that Bechet-soprano sound reflected in John Coltrane’s soprano work; you know, when jazz “began” with “Giant Steps.” Trumpeter Zottola is absolutely impeccable, shading the incomparable Louis Armstrong superbly. Close your eyes: he has “Pops Chops” galore with all the range, stylistic flits, shakes and blitz-attacks in the swinging book. Together he and Wilber divine the melodic and improvisational nuances of the Masters they respectfully salute. And, each tips hat while intelligently adding their own graceful and inspiring jazz commentary (“I Got It Bad and that Ain’t Good,” “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere,” “Dear Old Southland”). The stellar rhythm section consisting of pianist, Mark Shane, drummer Butch Miles, guitarist Mike Peters and bassist, Len Skeat with vocals by Pug Horton assists, complements and helps to make this Legacy certainly create its own.
So, young musicians, drop the smartphones, the boring faux jazz, and get soprano-swinging smart with Sidney himself and the next best thing – The Bechet Legacy.