IN THE PRESS
With advanced technology to the point that just about anyone can put together and sell their own CD (with little regard as to whether or not the music is worthy of dissemination or not, mind you), so much of the self-produced jazz which reaches this reviewers doorstep is half-baked and not worth much more than a few spins. In a dichotomous turn to the other direction, drummer Michael Melito's second and most recent project is of such a high caliber in both execution and packaging that it gives the major label releases a run for their money. This is not to say that Melito's music makes any commercial concessions, just that its intelligent mainstream outlook is well recorded and tastefully presented.
With trumpeter Joe Magnarelli (on one cut) and tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart on hand, the hard bop performances as led by Melito definitely fall in the same category as the fare cultivated on the Criss Cross Jazz label. Stewart is so unduly neglected that its a crime, but he's in great form here with a swagger that recalls earlier tenor icons such as Dexter Gordon (spin Nobody Else But Me for proof). As for pianist Paul Hoffman and bassist Paul Gill, the two mesh seamlessly with Melito, who obviously has given much thought to the final recorded sound of his drum kit.
Among the ten tracks, which clock in at close to an hour, are a few originals by Melito, Hoffman, and Magnarelli. Freddie Hubbards Happy Times and Tina Brooks Minor Move are sagaciously chosen pleasures that reveal Melitos tastes in obscure chestnuts. Furthermore, choosing to lead in the service of the music, the drummer does not engage in flashy solos and bombast. As such, nothing overly dramatic occurs, but each musician speaks with his or her own voice and the swinging 'n displayed by all will no doubt offer a healthy share of delights for those of the hard bop persuasion.
Drummer Mike Melito's Quintet date finds a beautifully integrated band of musicians, who gel with a sound as smooth as silk thanks in no small part to the leader's drumming. Crisp, sharp and precise, Melito has superb dynamic control with exemplary cymbal work. Grant Stewart also impresses with his richly handsome tone showcased nicely on "Don't Blame Me" -while pianist Dino Losito has a pleasingly economical style that pays off well, in both solo and accompaniment modes. A reharmonized, uptempo "You Don't Know What Love Is" is another potent performance, with a rangy tenor solo by Stewart. Joe Magnarelli also has a memorable trumpet tone, recalling the crackling excitement of 1960's Blue Note stalwarts such as Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. Combining both unerring precision and nuance, The Next Step is about as good as it gets for modern mainstream.
Cadence Jazz Magazine
Michael Melito Quartet | MHR Records
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
There's a ton of splendid music coming out of Rochester, New York, probably because the first-rate Eastman School of Music is located there. Although few Noo Yawkers would admit it, The Big Apple doesn't have the state monopoly on stellar jazz, and here's another northern star to prove it. Mike Melito is a strong, straight-ahead drummer who's produced a classy, swinging CD with some of his local colleagues, all with impeccable credentials. It's a melodic session of fresh material, full of head-nodders and finger-poppers. “' Bout Time” opens with the friendly Freddie Hubbard tune, “Happy Times,” then proceeds to provide more of them.
I really liked Grant Stewart's tenor playing, with its rich tone and blessed lack of squawking (listen to him on “My Ideal” for some ideal ballad playing). Paul Hofmann's piano is fluid, versatile, and reliably interesting, and bassist Paul Gill, who's worked with Turrentine and Golson, Hendricks and Harrell, has a great time and intonation. Joe Magnarelli brings his fine flugelhorn to the closer, Cedar Walton's ”Bolivia,” recorded three years earlier and a highlight here. All told a highly enjoyable collection of the real deal: no fuss, no phonies, no grandstanding from the leader at the expense of the group. Very nice stuff.
CD Title: The Next Step
Featured Artist: Mike Melito Quintet
Record Label: Weebop Records
Style: BeBop / Hard Bop
Musicians: Mike Melito (drums), Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Grant Stewart (tenor saxophone), Dino Losito (piano), Neal Miner (bass)
Mike Melito wants you to know he loves Blue Note albums from the sixties. He shows this love on his latest CD The Next Step. A hard-swinging quintet plays some fine originals along with classics from the fake book.
Melito himself is a cooking drummer who loves to engage his soloists without getting in their way, giving them the rhythmic freedom to explore their time at-bat. The horn section of trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and tenor saxist Grant Stewart profits most from his generosity. Pianist Dino Losito joins Melito and bassist Neal Miner in being unobtrusively swinging.
The quintet shows the most respect to the standards, playing “Don’t Blame Me” with understated elegance at a medium tempo that will tap your toe for you, with no effort on your part.
Originals like Magnarelli’s “Bella Carolina” get more of an experimental treatment, with Melito’s powerful tom-tom intro belying a buoyant bossa beat.
“I Want More” sounds pretty much as Dexter Gordon intended it to sound back in the early sixties, and that’s a good thing. Stewart pays homage to the tenor master with a pleasing romp. Magnarelli steps in to equal him with a great look at the changes. Once again the rhythm section bubbles just under the surface.
“You Don’t Know What Love Is” sounds like the way Clifford Brown and Max Roach’s band with Sonny Rollins would’ve played it. Technically not Blue Note, but who cares.
Mike Melito loves Blue Note, but he gets you to love his music, too. Here's looking forward to his next CD.
Tracks: The Next Step, Don't Blame Me, Bella Carolina, I Want More, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, I Wish I Knew, You Don't Know What Love Is, Blues For Red and Brown
Reviewed by: Rob Johnson
Mike Melito. So few hard bop albums today from up-and-coming jazz artists capture the true flavor of this mid-1950s genre. Hard bop isn't exclusively about blowing. It's a mix of instrument textures, earthy tones and edge, which many musicians somehow miss. So it was with great pleasure last week when I put on drummer Mike Melito's new album, In the Tradition.
What makes this hard-bop album superb are the players and song choices. Which doesn't surprise me too much, considering Melito credits tenor saxophonist Joe Romano with personally helping to shape his approach. Romano was a mainstay in the post-1958 bands of Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, and others. Taste tends to be taught and learned.
Joining Melito are Grant Stewart [pictured] on tenor sax, John Swana on trumpet, Paul Hofmann on piano, Neal Miner on bass and Rob Sneider on guitar. I've written about Grant in the past, and on this disc, he continues to be among the leading contemporary voices on the instrument. Grant here displays a wonderful sense of jazz history in his playing and solos. Through enormous sensitivity, he modernizes classics without damaging the brickwork. Grant also knows that for a hard bop date, you have to farm the saxophone's lower register, and he does so fearlessly. Swana [pictured], for his part, has a terrific rapid-fire technique on the trumpet that complements Grant's tone and attack beautifully. Though this CD was recorded earlier this year, it sounds 50 years old, which is exactly how a hard bop album should feel.
The opening track, Junka, says it all. Only someone intimately familiar with hard bop would pick this offbeat Sonny Clark [pictured] composition, and the group executes perfectly. Also included on the album is The Dolphin, a rich showcase for Grant; Barry Harris' Bish Bash Bosh; Hank Mobley's Hankerin' and Tadd Dameron's Good Bait. And that's just part of the CD's tracklist.
What's interesting about the album is that drummer Melito [pictured] delivers the beat with stick-work that smartly allows the drumheads to be heard, which is rare today. Drums actually have a sound, and it takes a sensitive drummer to purposefully tease out the "skin" quality of the instrument. That requires a mind-shift by the artist from "Listen to me, I'm the man" to a more sensitive "I want to tell the listener something." As a result, I actually found myself paying attention and enjoying Melito's figures behind Grant and Swana. On piano, Hofmann's lines are delicate and knowing, allowing for space and message, while bassist Miner and guitarist Sneider keep things interesting. Pay particular attention to Sneider's solo on The Dolphin.
Benny Golson Quartet
Harro East Ballroom
June 10, 2007
Benny Golson: tenor saxophone; Antonio Ciacca: piano; Dennis Irwin: bass; Mike Melito: drums
After Anker, it was one more block north to the Harro East Ballroom to see tenor master and composer of many jazz standards, Benny Golson. We arrived just as the first set was ending with a rousing non-Golson standard,“Take The A Train." When Golson and his quartet took the stage for the second set, they wasted little time picking up where they left off. The first tune was one of Golson's greatest compositions, “Whisper Not." Taken at mid-tempo, the composer-tenor saxophonist took a series of variations on the tune that made one realize he owned it. The set was varied, including a classic by an early Golson collaborator, trumpeter Clifford Brown “Tiny Capers", a newer tune by Golson “Pierre Moments" and a popular standard.
After playing his own composition, the leader brought out his sidemen for individual turns. Ciacca, a fine Italian pianist who spices his bop pianistics with a slight left-of-center tinge, played an attractive original, “Nico's Song." Golson introduced veteran bassist Irwin solo feature with “You didn't know it but this is the moment you all been waiting for. Irwin then proceeded to sing, whistle and spin his bass to “There's No You." Mike Melito, a Rochester drummer, was the last-minute replacement for Golson's regular drummer, Ali Jackson. When one is looking for a bop-based drummer in Rochester, one needs to go no further than Melito. He propelled the music with finesse, and Golson featured him liberally, seemingly enjoying his playing.
All About Jazz
CD discoveries of the week. Drummer Mike Melito leads a hardbop sextet on The Right Time, serving up one terrific track after the next. On his new release, you'll find Mike's take on John Coltrane's Pristine and Just for the Love as well as Sonny Clark's Royal Flush. Also here are Clifford Brown's Daahoud, Gigi Gryce's Nica's Tempo and three by contemporary colleagues Steve Fishwick (New Bossa), band trumpeter John Marshall (Tailwind) and bassist Neal Miner with Night Owls, featuring sharp solos by baritone saxophonist Frank Basile, guitarist Bob Sneider, pianist Dino Losito, and Miner. Mike's stickwork throughout this album is driving and crisp without ever crowding out his bandmates. His brushwork is equally spot-on. You'll find this one here.
THE NEXT STEP
Personnel: Joe Magnarelli, Trumpet; Grant Stewart, tenor; Dino Losito, piano; Neal Miner, bass ; Mike Melito, drums
Mike Melito's influences sing from his snare drum and ride cymbal throughout his debut as a leader, THE NEXT STEP. There is an amusing anecdote recounted in the liner notes. It goes something like this: A drummer arrives at a session and asks Rudy Van Gelder if he can make him sound like Philly Joe Jones, to which Van Gelder replies: "Sure, but can you play like Philly Joe?" To say that Mike Melito is copying Philly Joe Jones would do him a disservice. Yet so would not mentioning the obvious influence. Melito's snare drum comping and solos conjure up images of the great Philly Joe Jones, highly regarded and quite possibly the single most recorded sideman jazz drummer. Also, present in Melito's warm and swinging style is Art Blakey. Like Blakey, Melito prefers to rely heavily on a strong backbeat accent-not always implicitly stated, but always felt. To this stable foundation, Melito adds the wealth of influences that only today's contemporary drummers can. Put it all together and it ends up sounding like the unique take on a proven formula for swinging success that it is.
Pianist Dino Losito opens the album with his original tune from which the release takes its name. "The Next Step" is a medium swing tune. From trumpeter Joe Magnarelli comes "Bella Carolina" a bossa-nova with a tasty Melito drum intro. Bassist Neal Miner contributes "Blues For Red and Brown," a medium blues. Also included is a faithful-to-the-original rendition of Dexter Gordon's " I Want More," as well as standards such as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "You Don't Know What Love Is."
Melito avoids egotistically filling the album with drum solos. Rather, he takes two extended solos. While the solo on "I Want More" (as well as the choruses of traded eights on "I Wish I Knew" ) is clearly reminiscent of Philly Joe Jones, the solo most inspired by Miles' favorite drummer appears on the burning rendition of "You Don't Know What Love Is." listen to this solo side by side with Philly Joe's solo on " Salt Peanuts" from Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet and you'll hear a startling similarity. The beauty of Philly Joe's playing lies largely in his phrasing, the way he strung together a relatively limited amount of "licks." It is this phrasing (as well as a few licks) that Melito uses so effectively in his own playing and timekeeping.
The Next Step is definitely a release for lovers of hardbop. You'll find an excellent contemporary drummer with clearly defined roots that in no way prevent him from attaining an individual sound on the instrument.
Excellent album -- many thanks. I've listened through at least twice and to some tracks more than that. Topnotch playing by the other guys -- Hofmann (such a relaxed, clear-thinking player) and Sneider, who are new to me, are in the same league as Stewart, Swana, and Miner, which is saying something. Tasty program too -- Miner's and Hoffmann's pieces are really nice; the latter has a kind of 1949 feel to it, like something Buddy DeFranco might have played with Jimmy Raney and Teddy Charles or a George Russell line of that or slightly later vintage.
As for your own playing, what you say about you and Neal feeling the time in the center of the beat takes the words (of some of them) right out my mouth. You wouldn't think that that would be a rare or unusual thing, but off the top of my head, I can't think of many drummers who put/feel "one" where you do. The only one who comes to my mind is the young Louis Hayes on "Stylings of Silver," and even then it's a bit different. Another way to put it maybe is that your beat is always just inside the soloist's beat -- this is especially clear and attractive I think behind Sneider on "Good Bait" (a lot of control involved there on your part to file things down), and then you broaden it out some behind Hofmann's solo because that fits what he's doing rhythmically. One result of this is that your playing is very speech-like in some way that I can't quite define -- your fills, your solos, even and especially just your ride cymbal strokes seem to be just the other side of actual words, phrases, and sentences. Again, many thanks.