Midiri Brothers Sextet concert for the Tri-State Jazz Society
By George Hunt
Tri-State Jazz Society's newsletter, Tri-State Skylark Strutter, December, 2001 edition
"Trad Jazz in the Philly Area"
The Midiri Brothers Sextet entertained 111 paying listeners on November 11. The lack of a piano at the American legion did not bother them because their normal instrumentation does not include one. For their recent CD, Live! at Bridgewater, the normal sextet was augmented by a piano player, Colianni.
The personnel at the concert was the same as on the CD: Joe Midiri on clarinet and saxophones, Paul Midiri on vibraphone and trombone, Pat Mercuri on guitar, Dan Tobias on trumpet, Gary Cattley on bass, and Jim Lawlor on drums. The average age of these musicians is under 45 years, so we can expect to be hearing from them for many years. The Midiris say they like the sound of the sextet without the piano and they can spotlight the vibraphone playing of Paul. (Note from the Midiri Brothers: the band enjoys working with a piano, but during sextet concert performances, they like to feature the vibraphone.)
The sextet kicked off with Breakfast Feud, a song Benny Goodman's Sextet recorded but never got the play of many of his other songs. Incidentally, Joes does not want to be knows as a Benny clone. He likes Artie Shaw, Irving Fazola, Sidney Bechet, and Jimmy Dorsey as well. Apparent from the onset of the concert was the tight solid beat of the rhythm section (bass, guitar, drums), reminiscent of Walter Page, Freddie Green, and Jo Jones of the early Basie band without the Count. The rhythm section easily modified the solid four to the bar to two beat for the Dixieland numbers.
The sextet played 21 songs during the concert, if you count the patriotic two-piece medley at the finale as one song. Incidentally, where but in the Philadelphia area do people stand for the playing of God Bless America; remember Kate Smith and the flyers? All the songs were well played. This writer was impressed by Wolverine Blues and On the Sunny Side of the Street early in the concert. Then my built-in "applause meter" picked out Sweet Georgia Brown, Avalon, and Limehouse Blues as audience favorites. It should be noted that on Limehouse Blues, we were treated to one of those rare occasions when two drummers each take long drum solos on the same song. Paul put down his vibes mallets and picked up drum sticks to alternate on the "skins" with Jim Lawlor. Putting it simply "WOW". It should be noted here that the vocal chores were shared by Jim and Joe. Joe's impersonation of Louis Armstrong's singing is becoming famous.
Something should be said of the "dynamics" of the Midiri Brothers Sextet. "Dynamics" means to play from real soft to real loud. This band does that. They play softly so much that drummer Jim Lawlor may play with brushes in his hands more often than with drum sticks; but they rev up to the loud side, too.
Let's get back to that patriotic medley finale again. After God Bless America was played slow enough so that everyone in the large crowd could sing it, the band broke into a rousing rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!) to close out a great concert in superb fashion.