Vibrant (adj.) exciting, vivacious, energetic, lively, animated, pulsating, effervescent
Tones (n.) shadings, sound quality, timbre, colors
If an album title is meant to depict its very essence, then Vibrant Tones surely hits the mark. The phrase defines all the key components of this project: Joey De Francesco - a jazz star with an undeniably exciting and vivacious style that develops intense musical shadings, The City Rhythm Orchestra - an energetic big band with a distinct sound quality and lively soloists, Joe Matt - an arranger who writes with an effervescence and unique timbre that exposes all the qualities of the ensemble, Giancarlo Impiglia - an artist whose paintings pulsate with animated images of color. This "joining of forces" works magic because the individuals are held together by a common love for music that expresses the joy of jazz with all its powerful sensations.
This package provides a double treat - listening to the colossal sound recorded on the CD and seeing the musicians in action at the live show captured on DVD.
The collaboration of Joey De Francesco and the City Rhythm Orchestra has created many memorable moments over the years. Their 1997 show at the Five Spot in their hometown of Philadelphia resulted in the live recording "Swingin' Blue". The success of that CD cemented a relationship that has since produced many wonderful musical concepts and has increasingly established its own distinct personality. Every live show has the feel of an "event" and many jazz artists and aficionados come out to catch the music. A frequent host at the performances has been Bob Perkins, a Philadelphia jazz radio legend. Bob is a big fan of the Hammond Organ sound and loves to tell stories about the heyday of those who gave birth to the incredible Philly jazz organ legacy - Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott, Charles Earland, Jimmy Mc Griff, and others. He and Mc Griff enjoyed comparing notes when they met up at one of the recent shows and then watched with pride as Joey demonstrated why he's the keeper of the flame.
The jazz community at large has credited Joey as the singular sensation that's rekindled a love for the Hammond B-3 world-wide. Consistently voted the number one Jazz Organist in the Downbeat Magazine Critics' Poll, Joey is uniformly regarded as the top artist at his craft. He burst on the scene at the age of 16 after being discovered by Miles Davis at a high school event and immediately joining him on tour. Following that notable entrance into the world of music, Joey signed with Columbia and has since released more than twenty albums on various major labels and performed at top music venues and festivals all around the world. Joey appears here courtesy of Concord Records, whose 2003 release "Falling in Love Again" earned him a Grammy Nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo. He never ceases to amaze audiences and critics as he constantly pushes the creative envelope.
The City Rhythm Orchestra encompasses everything that leaders Nick Vallerio and Pete Spina are about. Listen to the big band and watch it perform. It bears the mark of their passion for music and their uncompromising attitude. Fellow musicians can't help but get caught up in their zeal for creating something that speaks directly to audiences and is fun to listen to. They've become a prolific and versatile group that thrives on "working hard and playing hard" and this package is the ultimate representation of this. Quincy Jones plainly named one of his albums "This is How I Feel About Jazz" and Ray Charles followed with "My Kind of Jazz". For every artist, a recording should speak that sentiment. For Nick and Pete this one does. It demonstrates what they've accomplished over time and where they are headed.
For quite some time, many people had encouraged City Rhythm and Joey to do a studio recording that would truly capture the awesome sound that the group was becoming known for. At a performance at the GPU Berks Jazz Festival in 2001, they introduced a number of new charts written specifically for the occasion. The audience response was overwhelming and inspired all parties to get moving with the sessions as soon as possible.
Renowned engineer Gary Chester, at National Edison Recording Studios in New York, was sought out to oversee the proceedings. Everyone agreed that the sessions had to be done "live" in order to capture what these guys are all about. The laying down of tracks in a section-by-section manner would never do. Gary overcame the challenges of having five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, guitar, bass, drums and a Hammond B3 in one room. He set up the 13 horns in a semi-circle facing Joey and the rhythm section. This created a great sensitivity for the musicians and the feeling of a live show. As anticipated, the energy in the studio was high from the beginning and there was a sense that something very special was about to take place. All of the tunes were done in one or two takes, ensuring the spontaneity and power of the group was caught on the disc. The band played continuously for two days and put together 12 tunes totaling over 70 minutes of music.
There's no place New York City to do a record. Not only do you find the best technical talent, but the pulse of the city always enhances the musical creativity...not to mention the appetite! Creative ideas seem to flow easily while dining at a Mario Batali establishment, catching a set at the Village Vanguard, or discussing tunes over a bottle of Sambuca. The atmosphere in the studio was loose and often resembled a club scene. In fact, Gary decided to capture some of it on tape and include it on the good time tune "One Mint Julep". That Ray Charles classic takes on new life with this group and serves as a nod to the "genius of soul" who passed away shortly before the release.
Throughout the CD/DVD, Joe Matt's arrangements sparkle. His concept of harmony and horn voicings has long identified the City Rhythm sound, and he is clearly in top form here. He displays an uncanny knack for creating charts that effortlessly weave the big band and the Hammond organ together, making them sound perfectly at home together. Sometimes the organ is treated like an additional horn section, while other passages are set up for Joey to freely perform as the soloist. Matt's recreations of classics like "Walk on the Wild Side" and "The Cat" maintain the feel of the original, but bring a new instrumentation that shows off this ensemble, such as fashioning saxophone sectionals in place of French horns. He then goes full throttle with his original arrangements of "Billie's Bounce", "Time After Time" and "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set". The writing is both lush and explosive, yet still leaves plenty of room for the soloists. Guitar great Paul Bollenback adds another whole layer of sound throughout the CD. For a feature tune, he requested "It Could Happen to You" and Joe Matt answered with a fabulous chart that creates a perfect setting for Paul's fine jazz style. Joey sat at the studio's grand piano and provided a lovely texture behind Paul and the big band on that track.
One of the strong connections among everyone involved in this effort is their mutual admiration for the immense sound of bands like Count Basie. It seemed natural from the beginning of their work together, that they retrofit some classic Basie charts for the organ. "Blues in Hoss' Flat" and "Whirly Bird" are perfect examples. In the case of "Whirly Bird", Joey insisted on picking a blistering tempo and you can hear his count-offs on both the CD and the live show. It is fitting that this project is being released during the Basie centennial (1904-2004), amidst a renewed appreciation for his legacy.
The performance captured on the DVD took place at Wiggins Park, along the Delaware River waterfront in Camden, New Jersey. The beautiful skyline of Philadelphia and the sight of the Battleship New Jersey create a perfect backdrop for the concert. The music takes on a slightly different feel in a live setting and it's quite enjoyable to compare some of the tunes that are present on both the CD and DVD. Senor Blues, a chart that varies between vibrant sectionals and great solos, is a perfect case in point. Joey takes an elaborate spot on the studio version that sets an exotic mood, then he brings it to entirely new level in the live show as he incorporates the electric sounds of the Yamaha Motif keyboard. On John Bailey's trumpet solo, there are also new elements that he develops based on the reaction of the live audience. Some other notable moments on the DVD are Joey singing "Pennies from Heaven", the battle of the trumpets on "Billie's Bounce, and the crowd pleasing encore "Peter Gunn".
The art work adorning this 2-disc set comes from acclaimed painter Giancarlo Impiglia. Born in Rome, where he received his art training at Italy's Academy of Fine Art, Giancarlo's work has been exhibited in countless galleries across the United States and Europe, and in many private collections. He has been commissioned to create pieces for the Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mary II, U.S. Airways, the Mondavi Wineries in Napa Valley, and for the celebrated Absolute Vodka ad campaigns. He has lived and worked in America since 1973 and currently maintains a studio just off Mulberry Street in New York's Little Italy and another in the Hamptons. Impiglia's witty and perceptive work fuses Cubist, Futurist, Dadaist and Surrealist influences into a style that's all his own.
Giancarlo has a great affinity for music too, having been a bassist in Italy who was drawn to New York for an opportunity to perform. Some of his earliest works were album covers for bands he was associated with. The influence of music is evident as he creates a kinetic, satiric vision that juxtaposes the rhythms of the city with the anonymity of urban life. His paintings reflect images from crowded streets to elegant nightclubs, from the suave gentlemen in white tie and tails to the masses crowded onto a subway, spanning the spectrum of society and class. Nick and Pete were attracted to all these qualities of his art, and The City Rhythm Orchestra gained attention when Impiglia's "The Big Band" became the cover of their first CD "Goin' to Town" in 1994. The works that grace this project are entitled "Kaleidoscope" and set the perfect mood for what you see and hear inside...Vibrant Tones.