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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Al Together

From the Vault Dept.: Al Gallodoro was nearly 90 when I saw the concert reviewed below. His amazing career included stints in the orchestras of Paul Whiteman and Arturo Toscanini. He recorded with the Dutch ensemble The Beau Hunks. He appeared as a street performer in “The Godfather, Part II.” And at Caffè Lena, he still wielded his sax like the master he was.


YOU EXPECT, WHEN HEARING A JAZZ SAXOPHONIST TODAY, to hear some trace of the Big Influences. At the very least, there will be Coltrane and some Lester Young. There are exceptions: Scott Hamilton bypasses Trane in a sound that channels Ben Webster. And Al Gallodoro goes back even farther, with a sound that’s squarely in the Jimmy Dorsey-Frank Trumbauer camp.

Al Gallodoro
Like Trumbauer, Gallodoro fashions solos that extend the harmonic range of the tune in question without taking you far from its melodic center. Performing last Saturday at Caffè Lena, he and pianist JoAnn Chmielowski ran through a batch of standards and surprises that thoroughly delighted the far-from-capacity crowd. An added bonus was the two numbers in which they were joined by Addie Boyle, of Addie & Olin fame.

Gallodoro opened with a romping “All of Me” that set the pattern for many of the tunes to follow: a fairly straightforward but swinging statement on sax for 32 bars, then a hot chorus in which Gallodoro let loose a torrent of notes that played with the outer reaches of the harmony of the changes. Unlike many post-bop players, he’s not reharmonizing the tunes but rather finding the fun and tension in exploring 11ths and 13ths and such. Next a solo chorus by Chmielowski with a fluid, often single-line left hand and chord blocks in the right, followed by another piano solo in which she syncopated the left-hand rhythm into something approaching a habanera. And finally Gallodoro wrapped it up with another hot chorus that went stratospheric, typically and improbably ending on a high concert E-flat.

“Daybreak” from Ferde Grofe’s “Mississippi Suite” worked nicely in a sax-piano reduction; other concert-type pieces on the program were Margarita “Babalu” Lecuona’s “Taboo” and “When Day Is Done,” a long-ago feature of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

Caffè Lena offers a small performance space, and Gallodoro and Chmielowski made it feel smaller still by treating like a living room, with an audience that just happened to stop in to hear a few numbers. Their set list evolved before our eyes, and both engaged in friendly conversation with audience members, who clearly knew at least the standards in the repertory.

Those standards included “All the Things You Are,” Sidney Bechet’s “Petit Fleur,” Earl Hines’s “Rosetta,” “Lazy River” and Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” With former Gallodoro student Addie Boyle on soprano sax, they jammed on “Georgia on My Mind,” with Boyle providing a voice that was definitely Coltrane influenced but which met Gallodoro’s aggressive style head on with exciting results – especially in their second number together, “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

And Gallodoro can still give out with hot novelty licks, as he proved in fingerbusters like “Flat Top Special” and “El Cumbianchero.”

There was an exciting sense here of jazz both old and new, featuring a player who’s been there and done it. Gallodoro played with Paul Whiteman’s band, and he played in the NBC Symphony under Toscanini. If he sounds slightly Trumbauer-esque, it’s because Trumbauer was all the rage when Gallodoro was learning his instruments. Gallodoro recently turned 89, and he’s going stronger that ever.

Al Gallodoro and JoAnn Chmielowski

Caffé Lena, Saratoga Springs, Aug. 10

Metroland Magazine, 15 August 2002

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