If you watch TV at all, then you’ve probably caught Conan O’Brien’s late night show at least a few times, and if so then you’ve also seen and heard the house band, The Max Weinberg 7. I have to admit that the show itself has gradually lost its appeal for me and the main reason for that is its star, who seems stuck in the same old tired comedy routines, but the music has always been first class, and it would be difficult to do a review of Jerry Vivino’s new album, Walkin’ With The Wazmo, without talking about his most visible gig.
Jerry, who plays flute and both tenor and alto sax, has been a member of the band for years, along with his guitar-playing younger* brother Jimmy, who might be a little more familiar since he is also the assistant musical director and fills in as leader for Max. Both brothers have been active around the New York music scene for a long time, and have forged solid and varied careers.
Jerry has built up his resume by appearing with such stars as Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, James Taylor, Bette Midler and Bon Jovi. He’s also recently formed a musical partnership with Keely Smith, who is still performing and sounds as good as ever. Jerry lists among his influences Sam Butera and Red Prysock, but stresses his flexibility. “I play all different types of music and respect all of them. I wear many different hats and I do many different things musically.”
When Jerry began putting together this album he knew he could count on his little* brother Jimmy to pitch in, but he also secured the help of many of his musical buddies. With a stable of some 14 polished and professional musicians to choose from, he tailored the sounds of the individual songs by the way he made his selections of sidemen, and the result is an album of music that has a lot of different styles, and they all sound good.
The album includes eight originals and three covers and they’re definitely a varied and eclectic mix, ranging from funky jazz to the bebop sound of “Cats R Us” to straight jazz like Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-up House”. It even includes several songs with a latin beat, among those “Dorado Beach”, “Bellisima”, and even a hopping version of a Herbie Hancock tune which I’ve included as a sample, “Dolphin Dance”. Jerry plays flute on this number, and I believe I prefer that over his sax playing — although there’s certainly nothing wrong with the tones he emits from any of his instruments, including his voice, which he shows off on a couple of songs.
I liked this album a lot. It has something for everybody, and deserves consideration as an addition to any jazz fan’s library.