Midiri Bros. Shine on Sea Isle promenade
by Ed Wismer, Sentinel-Ledger critic. Excerpt from the Sentinel-Ledger, August 2, 1996
We last encountered the Midiri Brothers, Joe and Paul, at the Jersey Shore Jazz Vespers. Even with a relatively small combo they were impressive but with 14 layers they were incredible.
The fab brothers and some of the best side men in the area appeared on the Sea Isle City promenade on a shower-threatened Monday night that turned out to be cool, but otherwise glorious.
. . . Joe Midiri is either a clone of his brother Paul or his twin, at least in appearance depending on who you ask and is probably the spiritual descendant of Benny Goodman. Yes, he is that good.
Brother Paul is equally adept at beating the tar out of the "skins" or exhibiting lightening speed on the vibraphone. He would probably elicit murmurs of admiration from Lionel Hampton, another practitioner of the art.
His work on the drums was as frenzied as that of the great Gene Krupa and Midiri was on a "natural" high. The multi-talented brothers define the over used appellation.
They played most of the big band canon and did not neglect any of them, although they naturally leaned heavily on Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. Hits like "Moon Glow" followed right on the heels of "In the Mood", Harry James' "Sleepy Lagoon", "Opus One", "China Boy" and "Begin the Beguine". Scads of celebrities were introduced from the audience like vocalist and Atlantic City's Musician's union president Judy Cahill.
The Midiris brought a fantastic vocalist of their own, Philadelphia's fabulous Paula Johns. Paula's mom is celebrated operatic mezzo-soprano Mertine Johns, who passed her great vocal chords on to her daughter. Mother does opera, great religious music and gospel while daughter is becoming a legend in jazz and pop with good reason.
Her singing of World War II hit "I Don't Want to Walk Without You" was as smooth as melted butter. "Bye Bye Blackbird" was bouncy and her tribute to the late Ella Fitzgerald, "A Tisket, A Tasket" would have pleased the first lady of "scat" very much.
Speaking of scat, Paul blended voices with Joe Midiri's marvelous impression of "Satch" and brought the house down, or at least broke some of the concrete out of the promenade.
The biggest moment came last with the entire band's re-creation of the Benny Goodman triumph at Carnegie Hall.
Paul Midiri out-Krupad Krupa in a frenzied version of "Sing, Sing, Sing" that took everyone's breath away.