Frank DiBussolo's "Songs to Write Home About": Worth Writing Home About

A review of master guitarist Frank DiBussolo's new CD

Frank DiBussolo is a clinician, jazz educator, one-time college president, and as much of the Philadelphia jazz community would attest at one time, a master chef. But above all, he was and is a master jazz guitarist, one of several young guns—including a young guitarist named Jimmy Bruno--who came up under the tutelage of bassist and teacher Al Stauffer in the early 1970s.

DiBussolo, like many of those young guns back in the day—whatever the instrument—were, above all, out to prove they were the “fastest in the west.” No doubt DiBussolo was, but with the years, he has mellowed as an inventive and tasteful soloist, accompanist, and band leader, evidenced by his newest recording, “Songs to Write Home About,” which prominently features vocalist Tiffany Ly Grochowski, a.k.a., “Tiffany G.,” an appealing and sensitive vocalist who works often with DiBussolo in the Lehigh Valley, PA and surrounding areas.

With DiBussolo’s harmonic and rhythmic maturity has come an eclectic repertoire and respect for the Great American Songbook classics explored herein, including “East of the Sun,” “Blue Skies,” “It Could Happen to You,” and nine other gems. Many of those who came up in the jazz world back in the day have stuck to a repertoire of jazz standards that we’ve all heard over and over. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but to these ears, hearing something “Blue Skies” with a clever interpolation of “Killer Joe” and shifts in tempo, and a beautiful and atmospheric “Sway,” featuring the leader on acoustic guitar, is an extraordinary experience.

Grochowski’s vocals throughout show she has respect for the lyric and the song, and has the range to do them justice. At times, she evokes what could best be called “a retro sound,” meaning that she doesn’t employ the licks and clichés that too many other singers seem to feel is required. Bassist Steven Thomas Lai Xiang Liu lays it down throughout, as he’s supposed to, and provides an incredible bottom and groove, particularly on an ultra-slow but still swinging “Teach Me Tonight.” Drummer Bryan Tuk, also this project’s co-executive producer, is quite the tasty player on brushes as well as sticks and Latin percussion, and he knows what his job is: Keep time, provide appropriate accompaniment, keep it simple and keep it swinging.

Saxophonist/clarinetist Greg Edwards guests on a number of songs on the set. He’s an inventive and thoughtful player—his clarinet work on “Moonglow” is superb—with refreshing roots in the swing and bop era.

Overall, as the title of the CD indicates, these are, indeed, “Songs to Write Home About.” And by the way, mellowing or not, Frank DiBussolo's still got the chops.

Available via CDBaby.com. For more information on the CD and DiBussolo's activities, visit his Facebook page and/or web page, FrankDiBussolo.com.

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Bruce Klauber