Salvo Losappio’s Short-But-Sweet Debut Disc

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LONG STORY SHORT / PARKER: Shaw ‘Nuff. STYNE: The End of a Beautiful Friendship. LOSAPPIO: Boerum Hill. Leo for Two. ELLINGTON: Sophisticated Lady. JOLSON-ROSE-DeSYLVA: Avalon. YOUNG: A Ghost of a Chance / Salvo Losappio, t-sax; Sacha Perry, pn; Ari Roland, bs; Phil Stewart, dm / Gut String Records GSR031

Here’s one of those sad-but-true examples of the sad state of jazz releases nowadays. Italian-born Salvo Losappio, an immensely talented tenor saxist, puts out his first CD. The timing is short, barely over a half an hour’s worth of music, and his bandmates are only identified by name (not the instruments they play) on the front cover. Lucky for me, I had a publicity blurb which identified them, but both Ari Roland and Phil Stewart were listed as bass players. Recorded just nine short weeks ago on January 30, 2018, the album is due for release on MAY 15th, so it came to my door for review at the midway point between gestation and birth. Oy vey!

Happily, the music is excellent, and that’s what matters most. Losappio firmly identifies himself as a “bop kid,” so to speak, and although his tone is warm and a bit cool, not as hard-edged as many tenor players of the bebop era (including Coleman Hawkins), he has the phrasing and the pulse down pat. Moreover, though he uses some Charlie Parker turnarounds, his solos are generally very original.

But folks…aside from Losappio, the star of this disc is bassist Ari Roland. A Juilliard graduate and veteran of the bands of Lou Donaldson, Betty Carter and Barry Harris, he cooks on bass in a way I haven’t heard in many, many years. He can “buzz” on his instrument in the manner of Slam Stewart and drive the band even if a drummer were not present. And oh yes, pianist Sacha Perry, who played with Donaldson and Harris, is also outstanding. Given such a great backup to work with, it’s little surprise that Losappio’s playing is as good as it is.

Highlights abound here, not least of which Losappio’s own bop composition, Boerum Hill, on which he, Perry and Roland really cook. Yet I was even more impressed by the leader’s double-time solo on Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady, an outstanding tune whose chromatic changes play well into his talented hands. Leo for Two, the other Losappio original, is a medium-tempo swinger, and the band really tears into Avalon in a nice way. Perry channels Bud Powell on this one, at least in terms of style (he doesn’t quite capture Bud’s intensity), and the leader gives us a lesson in bop tenor, running up and down his horn with felicity. Roland gives us another edgy-sounding Slam Stewart solo, extremely virtuosic and well-constructed. This is good stuff.

The brief set wraps up with Victor Young’s A Ghost of a Chance, taken at its normal slow ballad tempo. Losappio plays a nice, relaxed solo, staying fairly close to the melody with some bop turnarounds in the bridge, but Perry plays double time in a quite interesting way., and Roland follows suit in his bowed solo. When the leader returns he gives us his own variants in a beautifully-crafted solo.

This is an excellent little album and a great introduction to Losappio and his talented band.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz

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