Saxophonist Greg Piccolo, one of the founding members of Roomful of Blues, has been playing professionally since he was a teenager. He’s a strong blower who has guested with everyone from Lou Ann Barton to the Fabulous T-Birds, Michelle Willson and J.B. Hutto and who has fronted his own band since leaving Roomful in 1990. This 2001 effort is just his third release in 13 years. What he lacks in quantity is more than makes up for in quality. His 1990 debut for Black Top (“Heavy Juice”) still knocks me out. “Acid Blue,” the 1995 follow up on Fantasy, was less exciting, but first rate still.
Less bombastic than that first effort, this return to his roots is a swinging affair. Here he pays “Homage” to the tenor players that moved him as a kid and inspired him to pick up the big horn and delve into the classics. When he blows Red Prysock’s great “Hand Clappin’,” for instance, it’s apparent that his were lessons well learned. The rendition is nearly note-for-note, which is impressive for chops as well as for replicating the fire that this song breathes. Pryock is just one of the heroes to whom Piccolo pays tribute. The sax organ combo sound of Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis’s arrangement of “Night and Day,” with Reese Wynans playing B3, is smoky nightclub to the bone. The elastic Lester Young stylings on “Lester Smoothes it Out,” the hard blow of Illinois Jacquet’s “Illinois Blows The Blues” and the full speed ahead R&B smoke of Joe Houston’s “Blow Joe Blow” are as hot as anything to come through the speakers this year. I’m also particularly fond of the sweet take on “Over The Rainbow,” based on Ben Webster’s arrangement and on which Piccolo’s tone closely emulates the master’s warmth.
This is a superb disc that should appeal to fans of blues, classic R&B and jazz. The accompaniment of Wynans on piano and organ, Mary Ballou on both standup and electric bass, Bobby Ruggiero on drums and Jeffrey Cashen on acoustic guitar cannot be understated, either. Just a delicious collection of music.
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