The Midiri Brothers Orchestra

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Concert Reviews

No rain on Midiri Band’s parade
(Noteworthy by Michael Caruso, Chestnut Hill Local, June 28, 2001)

Wouldn’t you know it? My first Pastorius Park concert of the 2001 season - and one of my favorite groups, to boot! - and it was moved indoors. And it didn’t even have the decency to rain! Not even an appreciable spritz.

Yet I couldn’t help but enjoy last Wednesday’s evening performance by Joe Midiri’s Dixieland Band in the auditorium of the Springside School.

It was a trifle hotter than I prefer. And the sound was a little boomier than I like. All the same, the band is so accomplished at its repertoire, and it plays with such enthusiasm that problems which could easily overwhelm another ensemble were no problem.

In truth, Joe Midiri’s Dixieland Band doesn’t limit itself to Dixieland music. Thank goodness because the band’s six member are masters in several different styles of music including Dixieland. For instance, they offered splendid versions of standards by both Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington - the former so enlivened by swing and the latter so smoothly sophisticated.

As the band’s leader, Joe Midiri displayed an incredibly idiomatic command over both clarinet and saxophone, playing each one as though it were his one-and only instrument. With the clarinet, he projected a melting lyricism through its smoky lower register and shimmering brilliance and death-defying agility throughout its upper register. With the saxophone, his playing glowed with sultry sensuality and sang with phrasing that was swanky and elegant.

Paul Midiri’s playing on the trombone was solid and even a bit subdued - which was a blessing indoors considering the natural power of the instrument - but his work at the vibraphone was stunning for its digital facility and tonal variety.

In the case of both Midiri brothers, however, their musicality outstripped their technical polish. Both command an impressive knowledge of harmony and its progression so that they were able to take the listener through the imaginative thicket of tonalities as part of the improvised development of the tune being interpreted. And yet, one never lost sight - or sound - of that melodic starting point no matter how afar afield one was led.

The Midiri brothers are backed by an impressive foursome of musicians. Trumpeter Dan Tobias produced one of the loveliest tones I’ve ever heard from a trumpet even while he was playing fabulously fast and powerfully loud: and his soft playing was admirably sustained and focused. Guitarist Pat Mercuri provided a full harmonic background as well as some well-chosen riffs, bassist Gary Cattley assured a sturdy underpinning and drummer Jim Lawlor propelled the band with rhythmic vitality.

If we could only have heard the concert in the park, it would have been perfect.


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