John Barrett - Jazzusa.com
Posted online 1/10/2001 www.jazzusa.com
(Short Takes review section, Jan. edition)
Midiri Brothers Orchestra
(Midiri Brothers - 2000)
by John Barrett
It is one thing to mimic the masters; it's another to follow their path. Joe Midiri does everything with his clarinet: woody groans, dizzy spirals, all with a feathery touch. He's not afraid to challenge the swingers on their own turf: Goodman's "Clarinade" sounds like the real thing, fueled by his wonderful band. Creamy-smooth altos join a slappin' bass and growling brass - it's a 78 record with better sound.
"My Inspiration" has the whole band at a whisper; the reeds sound like a string quartet! Steve Schaffner has a great trumpet lick - way too short and quite exquisite. Paula Johns adds her brassy voice to many tunes: lovely on "Bye Bye Blackbird", enthralled on "Come Dance with Me." (She might overact on "As Time Goes By", but the voice is right.) "Caldonia" is fun, with an uproarious vocal; the band blows tough, and the saxes have their way. Joe tries a Louis Armstrong vocal for "I Want a Little Girl"; works better than you'd expect. (And it's not a parody; he sings with sincerity, and you will smile.)
They use the Lunceford arrangement on "Tain't What You Do", where Paula adds a touch of sass. And it's time to wave the flag: as a tribute to Jimmy Dorsey, Joe picks up the alto for the dizzying "Finger Bustin'. The reeds coo as Joe winds through that theme, first on alto, then the black stick. He is fast but also lyrical - you'll be impressed, if you're not already.
For a change of pace, Joe takes a few tunes by himself, helped by the lightest rhythm. He takes it slow on "Petite Fleur", weeping as the piano glimmers. He scoots through "Undecided", bouncing beside the guitar of Pat Mercuri; it's calmer still for "Night and Day", where Pat and Joe hum together. The small groups are really nice: Midiri sounds thoughtful, and shows he can do more than swing. But you'll want to hear the band; at its roaring best, it's a glory to behold.