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Jerry Vivino: Coast to Coast (Blujazz)

Review of a rare leader outing by the longtime saxophonic sideman, with guest spots from Bucky Pizzarelli and the late Lew Soloff

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Cover of Jerry Vivino album Coast to Coast
Cover of Jerry Vivino album Coast to Coast

Jerry Vivino is one of those ubiquitous musicians—a longtime mainstay of Conan O’Brien’s late-night TV band and a sideman to dozens of stars ranging from Springsteen to Tony Bennett—who goes unappreciated until one day you stop to consider him and realize why everyone wants to use him. While the saxophonist is not an edge-straddling innovator or remarkable virtuoso, he’s a more-than-solid journeyman who’s always right where he needs to be, adaptable to any circumstance. On Coast to Coast he assumes the rare role of leader.

The 10-track collection—recorded, as its title implies, both in Vivino’s native New Jersey and his current southern California base—features seven original tracks, most co-writes, and a trio of standards. Three tunes, including “Body and Soul” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” feature both the nonagenarian guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and his bassist son Martin, and two others are decade-old leftovers featuring the late trumpeter Lew Soloff.

Despite the hodgepodge nature of the sessions, Coast to Coast is a dependably enjoyable straight-ahead listen. On “Sam I Am,” a solo Vivino composition, the saxophonist swings good-naturedly, never leaving the core melody too far behind; Andy Langham keeps the momentum going with his piano solo, then hands off the front spot to bassist John Leftwich. On “Lew’s Blues,” one of the two Soloff tracks, the trajectory is similar: No one soars or upstages, but everyone gives as good as they’ve got.

“Honeysuckle Rose,” the Fats Waller-Andy Razaf nugget, is the album’s sole vocal number, and Vivino clearly relishes taking on the additional task, giving it a spirited reading. But the track belongs to Bucky P, whose command and tastefulness remain undiminished. Although he contributes to two other numbers, Coast to Coast would be that much richer if he’d been invited to add licks to a few more.

Preview or download Coast to Coast on Amazon!

Originally Published