Highly entertaining big band versions of smaller and bigger hits mostly from the British stuff from the 60s to 70s. Even if Mr Palermo doesn't have his big band playing Zappa compositions this time, the zappaesque approach is quite tangible: All those little quotations in between or to couple the Fab Four with Miles Davis. Or Bernstein via The Nice with Green Day! Great playing, great arrangements! And to say it again, yes, humour does belong in music!
Favorite track: 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson).
Crazy times call for outrageous music, and few jazz ensembles are better prepared to meet the surreality of this reality-TV-era than the antic and epically creative Ed Palermo Big Band. The New Jersey saxophonist, composer and arranger is best known for his celebrated performances interpreting the ingenious compositions of Frank Zappa, an extensive body of work documented on previous Cuneiform albums.
But his fifth project for the label, ‘The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 1 & 2’, is a love letter to the rockers who ruled the AM and FM airwaves in the 1960s via successive waves of the British Invasion. Featuring largely the same stellar cast of players as last year’s gloriously eclectic One Child Left Behind, the 18-piece EPBB lovingly reinvents songs famous and obscure, leaving them readily recognizable and utterly transformed. The first installments in what he hopes to be an ongoing project, these two volumes give a whole new meaning to 'swinging London'.
More than any other EPBB release, The Great Un-American Songbook is like rummaging around Palermo’s record collection and playing tracks at random after imbibing an espresso-laced bottle of absinth. He’s the first to admit that the album is a highly personal and nostalgia-induced undertaking. “Almost everything I do lately is reliving my past,” Palermo says. “With the craft and skill I’ve developed being an arranger for all these years, I can now take those songs that I grew up with and loved, and reinterpret them. I picked my favorite songs, songs that I’m going to want to hear and play a lot. There’s really no other way to explain my selection process.
By the end of the long and winding road through Palermo’s musical backpages there’s no doubt that his nostalgia is our delight, as vintage rock songs make for state-of-the-art jazz. “Anything can be grist for the mill,” Palermo says. “Once I start an arrangement I get so into it. I’m going to put my spin on it.”
Nothing demonstrates the ensemble’s ongoing vitality better than the stellar cast of players, with many longtime collaborators. Many of these top-shelf musicians have been in the band for more than a decade, and they bring wide ranging experience, expert musicianship and emotional intensity to Palermo’s music. From the first note, well, after the goat, the band manifests greatness in a truly Un-American cause.
From the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jeff Beck to King Crimson, Traffic, and Jethro Tull, The EPBB storms the British invasion and plants the American flag (upside down)!
2nd alto sax, flute, piccolo, soprano sax
lead tenor sax, flute, clarinet
2nd tenor sax, flute, oboe
Producer: Bruce McDaniel
Edvard Loog Wanker III
Recorded at Peaceful Waters Studio, April 18–October 10, 2016.
Wayne Warnecke: Engineer
Mixing and mastering by Bruce McDaniel at Rock Ridge Recording, New Orleans, LA.
Additional recording by Ralph Kessler at Pinguin, Hamburg, Germany.
Artwork: Hugh Brennan
Photos: Hugh Brennan*
*except for Mike Boschen's by Mark Kornbluth, and Bruce McDaniel's by Jasmine Taylor Shadab, also credit to David Ortega (photo asst. on Ed's shoot)
Ray Marchica uses Zildjian cymbals, Pearl drums, Remo drum heads, and Vic Firth sticks exclusively.
Paul Adamy uses DR strings and Wayne Jones Audio exclusively.
Ronnie Buttacavoli plays a Cannonball "Stone Series” 725 black nickel-plated trumpet and a custom mouthpiece by Greg Black Mouthpieces exclusively.
Barbara Cifelli uses Rico saxophone reeds exclusively.
Ed Palermo uses his band members unapologetically.
Volume I (Tracks #1-10)
GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING vocals: Bruce McDaniel; solo: Bruce McDaniel (guitar)
OPEN UP SAID THE WORLD AT THE DOOR solos: John Bailey (trumpet), Ted Kooshian (organ)
WE LOVE YOU vocals: Bruce McDaniel; solo: Katie Jacoby (violin)
ELEANOR RIGBY solos: Ted Kooshian (organ), Katie Jacoby (violin)
DEFINITELY MAYBE solo: Phil Chester (soprano sax)
AS YOU SAID solo: Katie Jacoby (violin)
LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC, PART TWO solos: Katie Jacoby (violin), Ben Kono (tenor sax)
21st CENTURY SCHIZOID MAN solo: Ed Palermo (alto sax)
SEND YOUR SON TO DIE vocals: Bruce McDaniel, Ed Palermo, Katie Jacoby; solo: Ed Palermo (guitar)
EDWARD, THE MAD SHIRT GRINDER solos: Ben Kono (tenor sax), John Bailey (trumpet), Bob Quaranta (piano),Ted Kooshian (organ), Katie Jacoby (violin)
Volume II (Tracks #11-21)
AMERICA/AMERICAN IDIOT vocals: Bruce McDaniel; solo: Katie Jacoby (violin)
BEGGAR'S FARM vocals: Bruce McDaniel; solos: Ben Kono (flute), John Bailey (trumpet), Bill Straub (tenor sax)
BITCHES CRYSTAL solos: Cliff Lyons (alto sax), Charley Gordon (trombone), Barb Cifelli (baritone sax), Bill Straub (tenor sax)
THE WRECK OF THE HESPERUS vocals: Bruce McDaniel
DIAMOND DUST solo: Bob Quaranta (piano)
THE LOW SPARK OF HIGH HEELED BOYS vocals: Bruce McDaniel; solos: Cliff Lyons (alto sax), Michael Boschen (trombone)
FIRE vocals: Napoleon Murphy Brock
THE TOURIST vocals: Bruce McDaniel
DON'T BOTHER ME solo: Katie Jacoby (violin)
NARDIS solo: John Bailey (trumpet)
DON'T BOTHER ME (reprise) vocals: Bruce McDaniel
I WANNA BE YOUR MAN vocals: Mick Starkey; solo: Katie Jacoby (violin)
GOOD NIGHT vocals: Mick Starkey
All arrangements by Lord Edward with the exception of “Larks' Tongues in Aspic” which was expertly arranged by Bruce of Earl.
supported by 20 fans who also own “The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II”
Some albums grow on me; some pull me in from the first listen. "A Lousy Day in Harlem" is the second kind of album. I fell in love with the music immediately, and the album has been on repeat for the past week. Stuart Blythe