CD review by Roger Zee (05/20/16)
So glad to see Dan Cipriano continuing the funky, instrumental R&B/Jazz tradition of King Curtis, Eddie Harris, The Crusaders, Herbie Mann, and David Sanborn. Cipriano made his bones as a sideman playing with the likes of Wilson Pickett, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, the Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Jett, and Larry Carlton. Here he stretches out as a band leader, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. Produced and engineered by Cipriano, musicians include Cipriano (sax/flute/keys/guitar), Cindy Bradley (trumpet/flugelhorn/percussion), Bernie Williams (guitar), Gil Parris (guitar), Kip Sophos (bass), and Joe Goretti (drums).
I grew up in the early Sixties at a great time for instrumental music. I started trumpet in the fourth grade and totally grooved to "Java" by Al Hirt, hits by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Bass, as well as Duane Eddy and The Ventures. I loved playing in my Junior High marching band. I lived for meeting women at the local public and religious school dances - all rocked by cool kids' bands. But things change. There are no more instrumental top-forty hits. DJ's have taken over the dance floor. Recorded tracks have replaced the school orchestra in musical productions. Nobody sells albums. The Internet has seen to that! The greatest soloists make their living giving music lessons at $50 per half-hour. It doesn't even pay to leave the house for a four-hour gig that pays $100 or less.
So when you start out to create an all-instrumental album, you begin behind the eight ball! You better include tons of hummable, danceable hooks and the production must kill. The best tunes here achieve that goal. The opening track, "Sneakin," utilizes dual trumpet and sax lines to funk up the feel of the Saturday Night Live theme. Perfect for any of the multitude of new Late Night talk shows. "Sweet Sol" unleashes ex-Yankee star Bernie Williams' guitar on a lilting, Latin theme. Gil Parris shines his guitar light on the tasty funk of the title cut, "First Impressions." Cipriano injects some intense horn on his declaration of "My Love." Gil Parris gleams again on the Smooth Jazz of "Jasmine Marie." The whole band kicks butt on the James Brown inspired "Maceo" with Kip Sophos and his bass raising it to "11!" "Night Jam" takes a page from "The Chicken" by Jaco Pastorius and Cipriano delivers a knockout blow.
I've witnessed many terrific saxophonists. But I've never personally played with one as great as Dan Cipriano. No matter what tune we perform, the entire audience invariably ends up on their feet applauding wildly by the end of his solo! It may take a hero to sell instrumental records. But Cipriano may be just the one to get it done!
©2016 Roger Zee