GREG CAPUTO: KEEPER OF THE BIG BAND FLAME
Greg Caputo is a talented, versatile and swinging drummer with credits that include everyone from Basie and James to Goodman and Shaw. His academic credentials are impeccable as well. He’s a Hartford Conservatory of Music graduate and studied privately with Alan Dawson, Joe Morello and Jim Chapin.
Caputo even sat in for an ailing Gene Krupa a concert in the early 1970s. Above all, he uses his experience, credits and talents to preserve and perpetuate the big band jazz tradition.
“Classic Swing with a Modern Drive” is a brand new CD by Caputo’s big band, with altoist Phi Woods and vocalist Viv Murray as special guests. Recording a straight-ahead, 16-piece big band CD in 2009? Talk about dedication.
As a whole, it works beautifully. The band swings, and peerlessly tackles vintage stuff like “Sing Sing Sing” and “We’ll Git It,” as well as the complexity of Buddy Rich charts like “Nutville” and “Mexicali Nose.” Ensemble-wise, there’s not a note out of place, but under Caputo’s leadership from the drum chair, there’s nothing stiff about this. The venerable “Shiny Stockings” is the essence of relaxed swing. Certainly, the Basie feel sounds easy, and that is as it should be. It is not, however, easy to play.
Solo-wise, everyone involved is a champ. Phil Woods? He’s still got it.
Congratulations to Gregory Caputo for his tireless work as an educator, percussionist, bandleader, and now, recording artist.
If Basie were around, he might say something like “The Gregory Caputo Big Band is the last word in big bands today.”
For ordering information and other details about Caputo, visit his web site at: www.GregoryCaputo.com
GENE KRUPA AT NEWPORT
Unless one was prone to do a lot of digging, few knew that the Gene Krupa quartet made an appearance at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival. In fact, until very recently, it was understood that Gene made only two, Newport appearances, one at the inaugural 1954 bash, and again in 1972 at what was called Newport in New York.
Courtesy of an online music company named Wolfgang’s Vault, owned and operated by Bill Sagan, a good deal of previously undiscovered Newport material is coming to light, including Krupa’s 1959 appearance. Others at the fest, by the way, included the likes of Herbie Mann, Thelonious Monk, Basie and many others, and the recordings were made in pristine stereo direct from Newport stage mikes. Not all sets are complete, though we should be thrilled to have what we have.
No one knows exactly who recorded this material, says a recent New York TImes piece by Ben Ratcliff, and although Voice of America’s Willis J. Conover introduces some of the acts, Ratcliff maintains that VOA could not have taped the shows, as Voice of America’s various Newport tapes were done in mono.
It was suggested that record companies did the recording, but that’s hard to believe, in that around 10 different companies would have had to be involved.
Krupa may have been invited that year in conjunction with the upcoming release of the film about his life, and/or to hype the release of his “Big Noise From WInnetka” LP, as well as the Krupa story soundtrack album.
This version of the quartet, with pianist Ronnie Ball, bassist Jimmy Gannon and reedman Eddie Wasserman, was said to be amongst Gene’s favorites of all his small groups. Fans have had mixed opinons.
The classically trained Wasserman–also one of the biggest contractors on the New York scene in the 1950s and 1960s–was fluent on flute, clarinet and tenor, and brought quite the cool sound into the band. Ronnie Ball, who studied for quite some time with Lennie Tristano, was also quite the modernist. Gene made good use of Wasserman’s versatility, featuring him often on all three horns. What Wasserman didn’t have, say some fans, was the free wheeling swing of a Ventura or Eddie Shu.
But it was a good group, and lasted for a good five or so years before Charlie Ventura returned to the fold circa 1963.
The Krupa Newport tapes, which we hope to make available on CD at some juncture, include versions of “World on a String,” “Lover Man” (one would think Krupa would come on with stronger material) and “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
Who knows what else will surface in the future?
Bob Karcy may not have “invented” the concept of the jazz video, but then again, when he founded V.I.E.W. Video in 1980, he was certainly the first to issue jazz concerts and other jazz-oriented filmed material on home video.
Almost 10 years later, Karcy is very much at it, with an expansive catalog of jazz on DVD, as well as classical music, opera, documentaries, pop, educational films, and rare television shows. In the jazz realm, featured artists include everyone from Freddie Hubbard and Louie Bellson to Billy Cobham and a newly-discovered opus from the underrated songstress, Damita Jo.
Karcy also presides over the critically acclaimed and award-winning Arkadia jazz C label. V.I.E.W. is not resting on its considerable laurels and impressive list of products. New and rare material surfaces regularly, and I urge all JazzLegends.com visitors to visit www.VIEW.com and see what this innovative, creative outfit is up to these days.