Reviews

Here is where you will find past reviews and interviews regarding my music. First records, and then CD's, were a sideline to my work schedule. Now, in retirement, I have more time to devote to the music I really want to play. Since this is my new focus, and I have more time for the "important" part of recorded music, distribution and publicity, I'm assuming that more reviews will be added to this page, and you can feel free to revisit this site in the future.

From The

 

...A Whisper...A Sigh...A Dream

…A Whisper…A Sigh…A Dream is by Los Angeles based clarinetist Mike Vaccaro and pianist Mark Gasbarro. Liner notes written by Vaccaro himself give great background for each of the pieces performed and includes biographies for each of the artists. The recording quality is excellent and balanced quite nicely, complimenting both artists. Three of the pieces on this album are originals written by or arranged for Vaccaro.

The title track, composed by Gasbarro, was originally for violin. It has a beautiful melody constructed of individual musical cells before it moves to a more linear melody. The second piece on the album, written by Tim Simonec, is a play on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, entitled 4 Seasons – No Strings Attached. It begins with “Summer” and a jazz-like feel, with lots of rubato. “Fall” is characterized with descending thirds, which almost gives the feeling of leaves falling. “Winter attaca Spring” begins slowly in the lower register before picking up in tempo and register. After a version of Piazzolla’s Oblivion are two pieces featuring a solo by each of the artists. After the solos is Sonata in Re by Nino Rota, which I found very reminiscent of the Brahms sonatas. The album concludes with a great Latin-sounding piece, Neapolitan Suite.

Overall, this is a wonderful album featuring music written by some lesser-known composers and really worth checking out.

– Jeremy Wohletz


Latin Love

Latin Love: Mike Vaccaro and Friends is another recording by Los Angeles based musician Mike Vaccaro and several of his friends. Vaccaro shows his ability to double, performing on clarinet, saxophone and flute. If you were looking for a delightful jazz album to listen to this summer, I would highly recommend this one. The entire recording has an enthusiastic groove and a great connection between all of the featured artists, who clearly enjoyed performing for this album. Liner notes, written by Vaccaro, add lots of background information for some of the lesser-known tunes.

I particular enjoyed their take on Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras #5. Vaccaro doubles the melody, sung by Anne Walsh, on the flute. Like the rest of the album, the solos are creative, but what really impressed me was the counterpoint between guitar and bass underneath the solos. This, in my opinion, really captured the “Bach” element that Villa-Lobos had intended. Although the majority of the album features the saxophone as the main wind instrument, there are two bonus tracks that both feature the clarinet. The second “encore” is entitled Segura Ele written by Pixinguinha. Pixinguinha was a famous Brazilian flautist, saxophonist, and composer who was famous for writing in the choro musical style. It is a perfect ending to a great album, featuring only clarinet and marimba.

– Jeremy Wohletz

From the

A DUÉ

L.A.-based saxophonist Mike Vaccaro shines like fireworks on new CD
(Published: March 23, 2011)

March 23, 2011 (Los Angeles, CA) Written by Robert Sutton. Spring has definitely returned; its arrival can be heard in saxophonist Mike Vaccaro's new album, A Dué. Its laidback, sun-splashed good vibrations not only reflects the West Coast roots of Vaccaro and his collaborator, pianist Gerry Schroeder, but the season in which it was released.

Featuring mostly original material composed by Schroeder, A Dué basks in the lambent glow of a Southern California afternoon. On the opening track, Vaccaro and Schroeder take the Broadway tune "You Can Always Count on Me" and charge it with an air of intimacy. The minimalist setup - just sax and piano - strips the music down to its gorgeous melodies. Vaccaro and Schroeder jam both together and individually on the cut; one provides the other with moments to shine and when their grooves interlock the results are like fireworks.

The chemistry between the two musicians is the key ingredient in A Dué's success. On Vaccaro's own "Confused Blues," Schroeder offers a driving rhythm as Vaccaro cuts loose on his sax. But they know how to take it slow as well. "With Every Breath I Take" and "Wine and Stein is Fine" are suffused with candlelit romanticism. Vaccaro's soulful saxophone and Schroeder's mood-spinning piano create an atmosphere of elegance and serenity.

According to Vaccaro, the spellbinding prettiness of the record was not unintentional. "When I started out I tried to play perfectly and hoped some beauty would come of it. Now I try to play beauty and hope some level of perfection will come of it," he explained.

Fittingly, Vaccaro decided to become a professional musician after a visit to a magical place, Disneyland. "When I was in eighth grade I went to Disneyland and heard Count Basie's band. I was playing saxophone in addition to clarinet by then and after hearing Marshall Royal play I decided that was what I was going to do with my life," he revealed.

Journeyman

 


Watch a video review of Journeyman at Performing Arts Review