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JAZZ: Joe Holt Presents the Midiri Brothers -- Avalon (Self-Produced) 1998

By Charlie Ricci

Although Avalon is the first of Paul and Joe Midiri’s three CD releases, it is the last one I had the pleasure of hearing, and let’s make no mistake about it: "pleasure" is the operative word for this disc. This CD, as well as most of the music on 1999’s Fingerbustin’ and 2001’s Live! at Bridgewater are probably the jazz world’s most obvious examples by contemporary musicians of what it was like to hear Benny Goodman and his men play.

Using both a sextet & a trio, the brothers play fifteen swing tunes, and just as it does on the Midiri’s two subsequent releases, the Goodman influence predominates. Well played King of Swing standards such as "Avalon," "Poor Butterfly," "China Boy," "Get Happy," "I’ll Never be the Same," and one Goodman original, "Slipped Disk" set the tone for this swinging good time.

In addition to music from the King, there is music from the Duke. Two of the three songs featuring singer Paula Johns, "I’m Beginning to See the Light" and "I’ve Got It Bad" were highlights of Edward Ellington’s fabulous big band.

Drummer Jim Lawlor takes a vocal turn with "Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby" which also features Joe blowing some really cool baritone sax.

For even more variety, there are nice original compositions by the brothers and pianist Joe Holt. Holt and the brothers wrote "Joe’s Brother" together. "If Pain Persists" was composed by Joe Midiri, and "A Couple of Joe’s" by Holt. All three pieces are enjoyable. I encourage the brothers to write and record more original works and to broaden their horizons beyond Goodman’s repertoire. Expanding their horizons may prove to be both artistically and financially rewarding because who knows how long they can ride the crest of their idol’s wave.

Every track on Avalon is well played, with the instrumentals, as usual, outshining the vocals. I dare you to find anyone who plays swing era pieces better than Joe and Paul Midiri. If you can find someone that plays swing clarinet as well as Joe that musician would probably be The King of Swing himself!


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