Nick Russo + 11 | Self Published (2006)
By Michael P. Gladstone
Ro is a wild ride for the guitarist Nick Russo and his group, displaying a number of his original compositions in a variety of settings. The guitarist seems determined to combine his interest in Indian music with jazz. The other eleven musicians also provide different textures for several of these tracks. Nick Russo is from Selden, Long Island and is a graduate of Stony Brook University and Queens College. His now based out of Queens, New York.
Considering the (approximately) four different configurations of musicians, I prefer the smallest of the groups, in which the music is guitar-driven. The album opens with the swinging, mainstream “Triggered,” which features a fine Russo solo, followed by pianist Art Hirahara. On “Dinda,” an acoustic bossa, Russo shows his affinity for Jobim and the piece’s attractive melody. “Untitled” is a showcase for trumpeter Greg Glassman, who takes the melody line and solo, followed by a sparkling statement from Russo. Pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Ari Hoenig are the rhythm section for all of the above tracks.
Miles Griffith is usually a very effective Jon Hendricks-like jazz vocalist. However, on three tracks, he sounds a bit like Joe Lee Wilson or Leon Thomas. He counters Mark Turner’s effective tenor sax solo on the title tune with a vocalese match that is reminiscent of the well-known section of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. On “Mitzvah,” Griffith’s vocal is based on original lyrics in English, but still sounds drone-like, perhaps due to the presence of Pandit Samir Chartterjee’s tabla; Griffith scats and takes the vocals a bit outside.
The final track, “Please Come Home,” is the most free jazz-oriented piece here, with a full ensemble that includes both Mark Turner and Bryan Murray on tenor sax, plus pianist Hirahara, bassist Nathan Peck and drummer Willard Dyson. Turner, who is not heard nearly enough, provides solid work on “Ro” and plays in a more aggressive free style on his other appearances.
Despite the many shades of Russo heard on this album, he still manages to sound cogent and lyrical in his solo work. And despite the somewhat fractured totality of Ro, he seems ready for the next step forward.
Track listing: Track Listings: Triggered; Moy Zaichick; Ro; Dinda; Untitled; Little Hands; Mmm; Please Come Home.
Personnel: Personnel: Nick Russo: guitar, acoustic guitar, tenor banjo; Miles Griffith: vocals (3,6,7); Mark Turner: tenor saxophone (2,3,5,9); Bryan Murray: tenor saxophone (9); Greg Glassman: trumpet (6,8); Art Hirahara: piano & Fender Rhodes; Pandit Samir Shatterjee: tabla (5,9); Nathan Peck:bass (2,3,6,9); Matt Clohesy:bass (1,4,6,8); Willard Dyson: drums (2,3,6,9); Ari Hoenig: drums (1,4,6,8); David Pleasant: percussion (7).