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A versatile and utterly masterful reedman, Lou Caputo is one of the music’s beloved mainstays. An artist who appears to have played with virtually everyone, from Frankie Valli to Shirley Bassey, Lou’s true mastery shines in his own jazz projects. Most recently, his delightful (and humorously named) Not So Big Band has gained tremendous and deserved acclaim, using a 12-piece format to capture both the richness of the big band tradition as well as the fire and spontaneity of the smaller ensembles. The setting also provides an excellent showcase for Lou’s own prodigious talents, framing and highlighting the beautiful lyricism in his playing. The Not So Big Band performs at Club Bonafide on Aug. 14; Lou brings a different ensemble, Lou Caputo and Company, at the Rum House on Aug. 26.
Perhaps there is nothing extraordinary of the latest release by singer-pianist Ronny Whyte, which is not to deny definite pleasures to listening to this recording of renditions mostly from the Great American Songbook. A veteran musician, he has been a fixture on the New York scene performing in many of the city’s intimate supper clubs, night clubs and superior hotel lounges. Besides arranging the songs, he co-wrote 5 of the 16 selections on this release. Backing him are bassist Boots Maleson, guitarist Sean Harksness, Lou Caputo on tenor sax & Flute, Mauricio De Souza on drums, and Alex Nguyen on trumpet with Dave Stillman on drums on one track.
Whyte recently turned 80 and there are a few spots where his intonation is a tad off, but that is a minor problem. It is delightful to hear his straight-forward treatment of “This Song is You” (with a bit of scatting), “Nina Never Knew,” and “Linger Awhile,” as well as his bossa nova original “It’s Time For Love,” and a Bossa Nova medley of “A Little Samba” & “So Danco Samba.” He is a romantic as displayed on his own ’I Love The Way You Dance,“ and the ballad ”Blame It on The Movies. “Caputo is outstanding outstanding throughout on either tenor sax or flute such as on the sober ballad, ”Some Of My Best Friends Are The Blues.“ Nguyen’s trumpet also marvelously compliments Whyte, like on ”For Heaven’s Sake.” ”I’m Old fashioned” is a splendid performance without horns that allows Whyte to showcase his deft piano playing along with brief solos from Maleson and Stillman.
A swinging “Dancing in the Dark” with choice solos from Caputo, Maleson and Harksness closes this delightful vocal jazz CD.
Read the full review by Ron Weinstock in CD Review: Jazz & Blues Report October 2017
Here is the latest from The New York City Jazz Record.
Lou Caputo Not So Big Band (Jazzcat 47) by Marcia Hillman
The Lou Caputo Not So Big Band, a 15-piece group performing steadily in the New York City area for the last 10 years, presents a collection of not-so-famous jazz compositions along with better known titles written by Tadd Dameron, Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Nelson, Dexter Gordon and Chick Corea.
The collective band itself is truly the artist on this album, which features just about every member (although leader Caputo gets a lot of solo time on saxophones or flute); fortunately the liner notes list the solo personnel for each track so listeners know which musician is playing (the band is comprised of Caputo on saxophones, clarinet and flute, saxophonists Geoffry Burke and Virginia Mayhew, trumpeters John Eckert and Dave Smith, trombonist Jason Ingram, tuba player Dale Turk, bassist Bill Crow, guitarist Joel Perry, pianist Don Stein, drummers Mike Campenni and Rudy Petschauer, vibraphonist Warren Smith and percussionists Eddie Montalvo and Leopoldo Fleming.
The arrangements come from several different pens and most are uptempo, which really shows off this band’s ability to swing with the best of the big bands. But there are also change-of-pace tracks, such as Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” featuring an amazing performance by Turk and a heartbreaking rendition of Dameron’s killer torch song “If You Could See Me Now” by Caputo on baritone saxophone.
Two Latin-oriented pieces (“Los Cielos De Ayer” and Corea’s “Guijira”) are features for Montalvo while Campenni is especially melodic on DeJohnette’s samba “Festival” as well as on the closer “Busy, Busy, Busy”, which also has a fine solo by Crow (who also wrote and arranged the track “News From Blueport”). Also notable are exciting work by both Smith and Perry on the aforementioned “Festival”.
For lovers of the big band sound, it is heartening to know that Lou Caputo’s Not So Big Band is keeping it alive and well.
Lou Caputo's Not So Big Band (12 pieces plus two percussionists on this CD) has been a working band for over ten years now, performing primarily at venues in the New York and New Jersey areas. Caputo himself is a versatile multi-instrumentalist who has played in show bands for Lou Rawls, Harry Connick Jr, The Temptations and The Four Tops, as well as with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Howard Johnson's Beartones (five baritone saxes), and Warren Smith's Composers Orchestra. The band's third album features outstanding arrangements by various arrangers of tunes by Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, Tadd Dameron, Dexter Gordon, Mary Lou Williams, and others, all illuminated by constructive and passionate soloists such as Caputo (on alto, soprano, baritone, and flute), trumpeters Dave Smith and John Eckert, guitarist Joel Perry, tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, pianist Don Stein, vibraphonist Warren Smith, alto saxophonist-flutist Geoffry Burke, bassist Bill Crow, trombonist Jason Ingram, and drummers Mike Campenni and Rudy Petschauer. The Not So Big Band's keenly harmonious sound and taut sectional interaction are no doubt due to this group of talented musicians' long association together as a unit.
Mellifluous harmonies abound in the opening polished arrangement of Shorter's "Black Nile," with Caputo's resonant baritone leading off a series of succinctly lucid solos that include those from Perry, Dave Smith, and Mayhew, plus some jolting, neat fills near the end by Petschauer. Trombonist Ingram contributed the zesty tune (and arrangement for) "Los Cielos de Ayer," which spotlights Caputo's spell-weaving soprano, the rich-toned D. Smith, and the mellow strings of Perry. Petschauer, conga drummer Eddie Montalvo, and percussionist Leopoldo Fleming sustain a pulsating rhythmic base for their musings. "Uh Oh!" is a Don Elliot opus popularized by the group Nutty Squirrels in 1959, the perky TV-sounding theme brought to life by Caputo's baritone, Burke's flute, and the sinuous full band before tasteful improvs from W. Smith, Eckert, Caputo, and Crow. Leo Wright's "Midnight In Berlin" recalls Mingus' Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," Caputo's piercing alto gracefully outlining its lovely balladic contours, his solo both tender and biting. Stein and W. Smith follow with equally sympathetic, if briefer, reflections during this compelling arrangement by bassist Chris White.
DeJohnette's "Festival" takes us to Carnival, transported by a panoply of swirling textures. Caputo's dancing flute, W. Smith's supple vibes, Burke's pungent alto, Campenni's vigorous drums, and Perry's sizzling guitar all get a chance to shine individually. Nelson's classic "Stolen Moments" receives a distinctive arrangement by Ryan Krewer, the instrumental blend fresh and alluring. Caputo's silky soprano initiates the solo chain, with W. Smith lyrically relaxed, Eckert lovingly incisive, and finally Dale Turk, whose tuba adds background substance to many selections, expressively absorbing. "News From Blueport" is an exuberant blues track, the ensemble unleashed, with soulful testimony from Stein, Caputo on alto, and composer and arranger Crow. The swaying Latin rhythms of Corea's "Guijira" draw you in, as does Caputo's flute on the theme. A forceful written unison section precedes a persuasive string of statements from Caputo, Perry, Ingram, and Montalvo.
Lyn Welshman's "Ape and Essence" has a Broadway musical essence, and the band swings his arrangement unmercifully, sections in vibrant call-and-response. Caputo (baritone), Ingram, Stein, Burke, and D. Smith all solo spiritedly amidst boisterous unison passages from the congregation. Dameron's enduring "If You Could See Me Now" is lithely handled by the band, with Caputo's baritone and Stein's piano eloquently elaborating upon the ballad's theme. The catchy Gordon composition, "Fried Bananas," finds Caputo on glistening soprano in a distinguished Bill Whited arrangement, with Stein and Mayhew also ably negotiating the piece's inviting structure. Mayhew's arrangement of Williams' "Busy, Busy, Busy" results in an harmonically intricate, turbulent adventure, the unbridled inventiveness of Caputo (baritone), W. Smith, D. Smith, Mayhew, Crow, and Campenni coming to the fore.
Band leader and woodwind specialist Lou Caputo brings together some swinging charts that keep the toes energetically tapping. The 14+ piece band has a brilliant sax and reed section and the soar over the rhythm team like pelicans looking for a meal on the sleek “Los Cielos De Ayer” and the swinging “Black Nile.” The brass section of John Eckert, Dave Smith, Jason Ingram and Dale Turk produce some film noir shadows on “Midnight In Berlin” and the Afro Cuban sounds of “Festival” takes you to Brazil as Caputo’s flute is featured on the latter. Warren Smith’s vibes team up with Caputo’s soprano on the hip arrangement of “Stolen Moments” and Caputo’s bari seems to be his strength, as he digs deep on “If You Could See Me Now” and “Ape and Essence.” Very strong and infectious outing.
LOU CAPUTO’S NO SO BIG BAND/Uh Oh!: He might be a Billyberg native but Caputo is no hipster trustafarian that talks the talk but never walks the walk. A regularly working unit, this crew is called a not so big band because it ‘only’ has ten pieces instead of 16 or more---and if that’s the only knock on this bunch…. Tried and true swingers, they can take you around the block with a bunch of stops in between, all of which are played to perfection throughout. Tasty stuff that comes from being powered by chops forged in the working musician’s crucible, this is a fine example of a party on a platter, jazzbo style. Check it out.
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
I'm glad he did the Don Elliott song "Uh Oh", one of my favorites. From the Nutty Squirrels to Billy May and now to Lou. Interesting I was just talking to Donn Trenner about that song. Lou has a great band and you did some nice liner notes for the CD.
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Lou Caputo's Not So Big Band is a working big band that has 12 pieces, not the typical sixteen piece or larger variety. It has been together for over ten years playing various venues in New York City. Caputo is a multi-instrumentalist heard here on various saxophones and flute who has played in various show bands ranging from Motown to Harry Connick Jr, as well as Howard Johnson's 5 Bari Saxophone Group (Beartones), Warren Smith's Jazz Composer's Orchestra and the Ellington and Basie bands.
Others in the Not So Big Band include percussionist Eddie Montalvo (Grammy nominee, Latin Grammy winner, Fania All-Stars), saxophonist Virginia Mayhew (Saxophone Journal Saxophonist of the Year), trumpeter John Eckart (performed with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lee Konitz), legendary bassist and jazz author Bill Crow (performed with Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods), Geoffrey Burke (performs with Harry Connick Jr.) and percussionist and vibraphonist Warren Smith who has performed with everyone from John Cage and Gil Evans to Barbra Streisand. I am most familiar with Smith's work and also guitarist Joel Perry who I met decades ago in Buffalo (and who also spent years playing second guitar behind legendary blues man, Johnny 'Clyde' Copeland).
This is a marvelous swinging modern big band recording with some terrific renditions of jazz staples from the pens of Joe Henderson, Leo Wright, Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Nelson, Bill Crow, Chick Corea Tadd Dameron, Dexter Gordon, Mary Lou Williams and others. The disc kicks off with a driving rendition of Henderson's "Black Nile," that Caputo takes the first solo with his robust baritone sax followed by Perry's fleet guitar against Geoffrey Burke's arrangement. Trombonist Jason Ingram contributed and arranged the Latin jazz original "Los Cielos De Ayer," with Caputo on soprano, with other solos from trumpeter Dave Smith and guitarist Perry. Don Elliot's composed title track was apparently a popular number by the Nutty Squirrels. The loping groove and sound of the reeds give it a somewhat cool flavor with Warren Smith taking the first solo on vibes, followed by Kohn Eckert's nice middle range trumpet, Caputo's brawny baritone and a short bass solo from Crow.
Leo Wright's "Midnight in Berlin," is a favorite selection with the late Chris White's arrangement and Caputo's outstanding alto (suggestive of John Handy) lending this a Mingus-like feel, with pianist Don Smith and Warren Smith adding solos. A Caribbean carnival feel marks the ebullient rendition of DeJohnette's "Festival" with Caputo's airy flute showcased along with the alto sax of Geoffrey Burke, drummer Mike Campenni before guitarist Perry's acoustic guitar leads to the close. Ryan Krewer's arrangement for "Stolen Moments" gives it a fresh sound as does Caputo's use of soprano and the performance also has Dale Turk's tuba solo. Chick Corea's "Guijara," is another latin flavored number with Caputo on flute (with trumpet like lines) followed by Perry's fiery electric guitar (evoking a jazzy Santana perhaps) and then some wonderful trombone from Ingram (set against Chris Rinaman's marvelous arrangement).
Bill Whited provided arrangements for the lovely rendition of Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" (with marvelous ballad playing by Caputo on the baritone) and Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas." with Caputo on soprano, Dan Stein on piano and Virginia Mayhew on tenor sax. Virginia Mayhew arranged the closing performance, Mary Lou Williams' "Busy Busy Busy." Caputo is a superb player, and his Not So Big band is a sterling aggregation with a marvelous book, terrific arrangements as well as soloists and a marvelous rhythm section. The result is this excellent recording.
August 15, 2016
CD Review: https://musicalmemoirs.wordpress.com/
By Dee McNeil
Lou Caputo, baritone/soprano saxophones/flute; Joel Perry, guitar; Bill Crow, bass; Don Stein, piano; Dave Smith & John Eckert, trumpet/flugelhorn; Virginia Mayhew, tenor saxophone; Jason Ingram, trombone; Dale Turk, tuba; Geoffrey Burke, alto saxophone/flute; Warren Smith, vibraphone; Mike Campenni & Rudy Petschauer, drums; Eddie Montalvo, conga; Leopoldo Fleming, percussion.
On cut number one, the very first thing I hear that grabs my attention is the rich, exciting sound of a baritone saxophone soloing on “Black Nile,” a familiar Wayne Shorter composition. I turn to the CD jacket to see who’s playing that baritone sax solo. It’s Lou Caputo. As the disc spins and various musicians are featured on solo bars, I’m impressed with their individual master musicianship. Virginia Mayhew swings hard on tenor saxophone and so does Dave Smith on his trumpet during the delivery of this Wayne Shorter tune. And wow! Who was that rolling across those drums like that? Rudy Petschauer is powerful! Caputo has gathered a sparkling array of New York’s best to play these “not so big band” arrangements and make them shine. On the Don Elliot composition, “Uh Oh!” I enjoy Warren Smith’s vibraphone talents. One of the impressive things about this recording is the excellence of ‘the Mix’. Bravo to the engineers that mixed and mastered this recording. Was that you, Mike Marcianao at Systems Two? You can hear every nuance of instrumentation; every brush across the drums and each percussive expression on the conga. Bill Crow is balanced perfectly on bass to lock in with Don Stein on piano, Joel Perry on guitar and either Petschauer or Mike Campenni on drums. Here is a delightful, jazz adventure with rich, well written arrangements by Caputo and the late Chris White, that explore straight ahead jazz at its best. The “Not So Big Band” (which by the way sounds way big!) has been performing for over a decade in New York City and various concert venues. I’ll be playing this CD over and over again for years to come.
The 12 musicians on 22 instruments of the Lou Caputo Not So Big Band -- trumpet (2), flugelhorn (2), trombone, tuba, alto sax (2), flute (2), tenor sax, baritone sax, soprano sax, piano, bass, guitar, drums (2), vibraphone, percussion (3) -- positively shine on Uh Oh! (Jazzcat 47 Records), their third in 10 years.
Jazz fans in New York City (The Garage), New Jersey (Trumpets) and London (Ronnie Scott's) might've seen this pulsing organism of a band. Their charts are sophisticated, their arrangements complex. And, boy, can they blow!
Caputo, from Brooklyn, has seemingly done it all. He plays a variety of saxophones, clarinets and flutes, having played them in show bands backing Harry Connick, Jr., Lou Rawls, The Temptations and The Four Tops. He's been in the ghost bands of Ellington and Dorsey. He even played in The Cotton Club Orchestra. His crew has credits up the wazoo from Grammys to superstar stints.
The material is so engaging, it is suggested that the deep jazz fan not know what's upcoming to set off the subtle shock of recognition that will hit the sweet spot 12 times. From Wayne Shorter ("Black Nile"), Jack DeJohnette ("Festival") and Oliver Nelson ("Stolen Moments") to Chick Corea ("Guijira"), Tadd Dameron ("If You Could See Me Now") and Dexter Gordon ("Fried Bananas"), this program is filled with sterling melodies, syncopated surprise and, like a cherry atop a sundae, the closing Mary Lou Williams track ("Busy Busy Busy") is just one more sweet reason to love this project. Highlight? Tough choice but I gotta go with the title tune, a little known novelty from 1959 by a one-hit wonder called The Nutty Squirrels where Caputo positively wails on bari sax. The only question is where the hell did he dig this one up from?