No shortage of power at jazz fest
by Brian D. Clifford, excerpt from The Express-Times, 1997
The thunderstorms that passed through Friday evening caused power shortages throughout the area.
But at the Pennsylvania Jazz Society's 11th annual Jazzfest, held Sunday in particularly hard-hit Plainfield Township, a set of identical twins jolted an appreciative audience with an electric charge.
Regulars at the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, Joe Midiri (on clarinet) and Paul Midiri (vibes) led a strong contingent of musicians through a couple of terrific sets of swing music.
As soon as the group broke into its opening number, an up beat version of "Just Because" ("Shine") audience members realized they were listening to something special.
As he wove his way through chord changes with an inventive and highly energized solo, Joe Midiri showed he can play the clarinet with the best of them.
Then came Paul. His amazing virtuosity brought to mind some of the great vibes players of our time. He was fast and furious, showing a sense of humor as he brought in snatches of other tunes.
The opening number also served as an introduction to the other members of the group: Joe Holt on piano, Pat Mercuri on guitar and Jim Lawlor on drums. They all proved to be strong players.
After a playful romp on "Banister Slide", which featured tight unison between the twins, the group introduced vocalist Paula Johns.
Leading off with "Am I Blue", Johns showed that her pipes were especially strong. She sang the old lyrics with feeling: "Was a time I was the only one", she wailed, "but now I'm the sad and lonely one. It ain't fun."
Johns' lighthearted version of Nat King Cole's "Straighten Up and Fly Right" had every one tapping their feet (and some singing along during the chorus). Her version of Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" was a gem. The room was as quiet as it ever gets at a PJS event.
The set ended with "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" at a super-fast tempo, with Johns on vocals and the group digging in with some fine solos. Once again, the Midiri Brothers showed their amazing skills as they navigated the twisting turns of this old tune at full throttle.