I was privileged to play on Miles Donahue's New Release "Just Passing Thru" on a great tune he wrote called "IRELAND" along with my fellow guitar brother Mike Stern. I played the head and the first solo and Mike played the 2nd solo (As if you couldn't tell). Enjoy!
By Bill Copeland on May 31, 2018
Lello’s Italian Job Volume 2 crackles with hot modern jazz through 12 exciting tracks. Led by electric bass and upright bass player Lello Molinari, this gang of jazz musicians perform with a careful balance of skill and art and often leave the listener wondering how they pull things off with such speed and precision. Originally from Naples, Italy, Berklee College of Music professor Molinari returns to his roots with jazz interpretations of the music of his old country in this follow up to his successful Volume 1 album.
Opening track “O’Sarracino” breezes in pleasantly on the strength of Dino Govoni’s pretty, mellifluous, soprano sax. Molinari’s thick, knobby bass line beneath the melody pulsates with each note he squeezes out, giving this piece a perfect balance between the higher and lower registers. Speaking of high registers, electric guitarist Sal DiFusco chimes in with his own something to say and he says it with a fierce melodic line that simmers with talent and edge.
“Jazz Tarantella” finds Govoni switching to a more sultry tenor saxophone. Its raw emotion is something he presses out in sensitive tones, in considerate amounts, and in a perfect tenderness amidst his band mates. Molinari draws a serious amount of feeling out of his acoustic bass, his notes becoming their own special dance of notes around the beat. The beat is cleverly delivered by drummer Macello Pellitteri. Pelleitteri taps out a steady vibe on his drum kit which allows Govoni to send his spiraling notes up and around it. One cannot help but get caught up in all of the movements this band serve up in this spunky piece.
“Intermermezzo Sinfonico” eases its way into the listener’s consciousness on the strength of Govoni’s use of an Electronic Wind Instrument. His melodic fluidity is beauty personified as it rides over the plucky groove coming from the rhythm section.
“Sulla Strada Per Damasco” commences with Sal DiFusco’s sweet, assertive guitar line which is soon accompanied by Govoni’s freewheeling sultriness on tenor sax. It’s a real treat for the ears to hear what this sax man can do. He creates dramatic tension in the tune with lines that get thinner, flintier. Govoni’s sax work here recalls the cool bop music that jazz musicians were getting hip with in the 1950s and 1960s. A listener can easily picture a beat nick café in that era featuring bands that play this kind of music, music which whistled through the minds of the patrons. DiFusco eventually returns with a nervous, twitching but compelling electric guitar take on the melodic line. He gives this tune an edge simply by playing it so briskly on another instrument.
“Na Tazzulellla E Café” gets a funky flair from Sal DiFusco’s guitar synthesizer as well as a lilting, pretty sax melody from Dino Govoni. After their shiny interludes, DiFusco pays out nimble, brittle lines that move with a soft but engaging spirit. The soprano sax follows suit, skipping down the sidewalk whistling its jaunty melodic line.
“Tra Veglia E Sonno” finds Govoni playing a line on his tenor sax that seems to dance around the groove. His infectious leaps and bounds make for some intriguing intervals of notes. Coming with an assertive edge, electric guitarist DiFusco ignites the piece with a fiery take on the same spiral of notes that were so sweetly expressed by the horn. The guitar’s elegance is as serious as its simmering forward burn. Beneath the higher register, Molinari’s electric bass bops along with a line thick enough to balance all of the melody on. Drummer Marcello Pellitteri smacks out bulbous drum notes in an engaging pattern which is needed at this point to support some hypnotically zig zagging lines from the sax. Once again, the listener feels transported back to a beatnick café when jazz musicians kept this kind of intrigue and suspense within every measure.
Lello’s Italian Job allow guest musician Meena Murthy to take the lead with her violoncello on “I Pini De Roma.”. Her instrument offers a sound that feels deep though somewhat mournful. Eventually, the electric guitar takes a turn toward fusion jazz or maybe prog rock with its aggressive smolder. Numerous notes from electric bass and drums remain calmer than the guitar but fit it well with their speed. Just when the listener thinks this tune can’t get any more intriguing, it maintains tempo but changes timbres with a whistling Govoni clarinet line.
“Lidio Napoletano” combines a rumbling rhythm section with a polite amount of tenor sax. Brief sax intrusions into the stick work and bass touches creates a tension, a feeling that something is on its way. After perfecting that mood, something special happens. A contrast becomes a dialogue. Tight, quick notes from that tenor sax seem to be speaking the same language as Molinari’s acoustic bass. They play with the speed and urgency of excited gossips who finish each other’s sentences. The chemistry between them, as well as the urgent drum fills, injects this work with a special medicine, one that keeps this intriguing, even when the instruments suddenly temper their energy.
Old world acoustic guitar styles and acoustic bass compliment each other nicely on “Anema E Core.” The DiFusco strum techniques here range from the Mediterranean style of combining melody and rhythm in one melodic line. Subtle picking of acoustic guitar notes shade in the melody well, setting a reflective, somber mood. Molinari’s smooth run of low end notes color the piece in a darker hue while serving as an important backbone for all of those special guitar notes above. It’s intriguing how well Molinari supports a higher register while also remaining its equal partner.
“Torna A Surriento” is lead by the pied piper effect of guest Meena Murthy, once again, on Violoncello. Her line is a lush hum of tenderness. It sets a cool, relaxed mood with its unique sound, letting the other instruments play a gentle line around her. The drums mesh with her line by subduing its rush of fills. Like other pieces on this album, things change quickly. A snappy sax line tap dances around a moveable groove, finessing the melody line with easeful switching from meter to meter. This old Italian song will likely sound familiar. Elvis Presley recorded an arrangement of it called “Surrender.”
“Tu Si Na Cosa Grande” ushers us in with Govoni’s sweet, tender flute melody which runs prettily alongside Meena Murthy’s Violoncello. The feelings conjured by the two include longing, a sense that one cannot be somewhere that they’d like to be. DiFusco augments this awareness with subtle movements of brittle guitar notes, moving around his fretboard with uncanny aplomb.
Closing track “Neapolitan Snake” is aptly titled. One can feel a snake presence in the way Molinari’s electric bass, enhanced with effects, quivers around Marcello Pellitteri’s well placed drum fills. Juicily filled with the bass sound, it finishes up the album with a fine touch.
Lello’s Italian Job present a lot of fine selections on Volume 2, and they play them with their own special verve. Each track is engaging and involving and a good listener will return to them again and again to hear more of how much talent this band puts into each number.
Lello's Italian Job Vol. 2
I love the "Intermezzo Sinfonico" from Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. It's in my absolute top five when it comes to short classical pieces. No, it doesn't have anything to do with Raging Bull, although that's the first time I heard this gentle, romantic ode that always succeeds in giving me goosebumps with its grand, gorgeous melody. To me it just sounds like the soundtrack for a stroll through the Tuscan countryside, cypress trees dotting the the rolling hills in the distance, or perhaps walking through the narrow streets of a small village. You can really get my attention when you play this piece in my presence. Adapt it for a jazz ensemble, however, and I might think you're nuts.
Jazz bassist and composer Lello Molinari has done it. In his new album, Lello's Italian Job Vol. 2, he and drummer Marcello Pellitteri, sax player Dino Govoni and guitarist Sal DiFusco have tackled some of the most Italian compositions you can think of and committed these memorable tunes to a contemporary sensibility. We're talking Respighi's The Pines of Rome, another personal favorite. We're talking Luigi Canoro's "Tra Veglia e Sonno." And "Lidio Napoletano." And "Tu 'si 'na Cosa Grande." Molinari, who's been performing professionally since the mid 1980s, started the Italian Job project (yes, there is a Volume One) so he could "enjoy a simple structure, a simple melody--Lello's Italian Job lets me do both, reinterpreting this old material from a new, contemporary point of view."
What's surprising here is how Lello and his crew approach each of these classics from a different direction each and every time so that the Italian connection isn't obvious--unless you're really familiar with these melodies or know the theme in advance. Sure my ears pricked up when I heard the opening notes of "Intermezzo Sinfonico," and this track is where the group stays closest to the song's origin. It's still somber and lovely, albeit lightened up a bit by Govoni's EWI (Electric Wind Instrument). I've heard EWIs used in jazz a few times and it always results in a meshing of jazz style and '80s New Wave in my head, but not so much this time. That original melody comes through intact.
If you're a jazz fan, I suspect that you'll love the way this quartet plays. They're loose and fun and they can break free and stare into the abyss of free jazz once in a while without creating too much tension. DiFusco's electric guitar occasional turns rabid and throws everything into an acid rock mode, further defying expectations. But in their inimitable Italian way, these musicians understand the concepts of lush romanticism and musical beauty. If you're an Italian fan of jazz or, like me, someone who dreams of walking around and exploring the Mediterranean coast one day, Lello's Italian Job might send you to the moon and back.
His guitar calls like a siren, ties you to the mast, and then races full steam ahead.”
Great Exploits, the latest CD from rock/jazz-fusion guitarist Sal DiFusco, is itself a striking and notable feat. Wearing his heart on his Fender, DiFusco engages us in an emotionally charged adventure that rouses our spirits and carries us to places we may never have been or have long since forgotten. His guitar calls like a siren, ties you to the mast and then races full steam ahead.
On the heels of Nevertheless, his first solo CD, DiFusco is enjoying a creative surge that is resulting in deeper, more complex compositions. Drawing inspiration in part from the acts of heroism witnessed after 9/11, DiFusco wanted to pay homage to those brave souls who willingly and unselfishly took risks—most to the point of death. The result is Great Exploits, ten songs that, although varying stylistically, somehow leave you feeling as if you can do something courageous yourself.
Great Exploits reunites DiFusco with explosive drummer Mike Mangini (Steve Vai) and bassist extraordinaire Joe Santerre (John Finn Group). Also appearing is Pat Loomis (Winton Marsalis) who adds his unique alto sax to two tracks. The CD was engineered and produced by Tom Waltz (Mighty Mighty Bosstones/Letters to Cleo/Extreme), who also cowrote four of the songs. DiFusco plays all guitars, as well as all keyboards.
Great Exploits reveals DiFusco as a more mature composer and player. His songwriting is fresh and vivid. The ominous cadence and at times bagpipe-sounding guitar of “Armed for Battle” lingers in the air. The joyful and tender melody of “My Little Guys” fills you. And funky “Lion’s Face” lightheartedly evokes images of ’70s detectives like Shaft, taking a stand, cleaning the streets and keeping the peace. DiFusco loves to employ odd time signatures: “Don’t Open That” in 13/8, “Stones” in 5/4, and Snowy Day” in 6/8. But more importantly, method aside, he loves to tell a story, and each song tells a story—a story of victory
In addition to being an elite player, DiFusco is also a faculty member at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music. He himself graduated from Berklee with a degree in jazz composition and knows there is no greater reward musically than passing along what he knows to eager students. He humbly acknowledges with respect that his own rock/jazz-fusion style was shaped in different ways by mentors Jeff Beck, Al Dimeola and Mike Stern.
20th Century Guitar Player Magazine Record Review
Nevertheless (Sadetar Records)
With the release of Nevertheless, Boston-based guitar instrumentalist Sal DiFusco establishes himself as a vital new force on the post 90's electric guitar scene. Acknowledging the influences that both Jeff Beck and Al Dimeola have on his own work. DiFusco takes flight with a number of fine, original, melodic guitar instrumentals that ignite and soar at the same time. The album features excellent support players such as Mike Mangini (ex-Steve Vai) on drums and Joe Santerre (bass) while the addition of Sal's wife Jen DiFusco, who adds spoken word vocals on two tracks, is reminiscent of Anette Peacock's on the first Bill Bruford solo album. Clearly mixing the melodic savvy of Euro-rock guitar great Jan Akkerman with the high tech wizardry of say Allan Holdsworth. DiFusco comes up with an innovative new sound. A spirited CD filled with DiFusco's spectacular electric guitar pyrotechnics, Nevertheless sizzles from start to finish.
Bass Frontiers Magazine Record Review
Nevertheless (Sadetar Records)
Sal was told by his father "Nevertheless attitude, despite all objects, keep going" Taken to heart, DiFusco has poured his soul into his new release, Nevertheless. Sal and a couple of his monster musician peers from Beklee College of Music, Joe Santerre (bass) and Mike Mangini (drums) bind together to make the ultimate instrumental rock rhythm section. Other musicians making a contribution to this album are Casey Scheuerell (drums), Paul Stiller (keys), Keith Reed (keys) and Dan Foote (percussion). Sal's singing guitar lines are legato and flowing, often blindingly fast, always marinated in cool crunchy effects. "Frenzy" features spoken word over odd time and soaring guitar solos. Santerre plays on "Salt is Good". Neverthess majestically wraps up this 10-song record.
Member: Prog Owl (Profile) (All Album Reviews by Prog Owl)
Format: CD (Album)
In a world increasingly populated by "fast guitar shredders" who start to sound indistinguishable after a while, it's refreshing to hear something like Boston-based guitarist Sal DiFusco's Great Exploits that dares to do something a bit different. That is, bring to the arena of guitar based instrumental rock something it has noticeably lacked, namely soul, melody and solid songwriting.
Each song carries beautifully crafted melody lines that cannot be ignored. Better still, the sequence of tunes moves at a brisk pace, there is never a dull or snoozy moment to be found.
And yes, there are more than enough over-the-top pyrotechnics to satisfy any rabid guitar fan, but here's the difference, Sal knows just when to go full-tilt and just as much, when to pull back (something the vast majority of "shredders" have yet to learn) and never lets the fireworks get in the way of a good idea. Better still, Sal has an excellent grasp on the concept of variety within his chosen genre. There's none of the usual "sameness" that seems to plague many outings of this type.
Sal's songs really come to life in the capable hands of ex-Extreme/Steve Vai drummer Mike Mangini and bassist Joe Santerre. They're not just support players, but are a very important part of the music. Mike's brilliant (and all too short) drum solo on "Snowy Day" is a marvel to behold.
Also notable is Sal's guitar tone, nice and throaty, full and meaty as opposed to the usually thin, screechy tone favored by many shredders. One can hear the soaring melodious influence of Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana in these outings, yet Sal is never copycatting either one. He's very much his own man.
The highlights? "Arrows of Victory" is a rousing starter cut. "Don't Open That" is my personal favorite with it's ghostly melody line and relentless 13/8 groove. "My Little Guys" (written for Sal's 2 sons) is a soaring ballad with teeth, something that would do Jeff beck proud. "Groove cakes" and "Take The Land" feature bluesy David Sanborn-esque alto sax from one Pat Loomis. And there's the full-tilt raging metal of "Armed for Battle" that would not only strip paint, but drive away charging horses at 60 paces!
The CD's production is crisp and clean, giving each instrument plenty of breathing room in the mix. Also notable is how Sal and producer Tom Waltz were able to incorporate tasty bits of electronica into the songs without being obnoxious or overpowering.
Trying to strike a balance between over-the top and tasty is never easy, but Sal DiFusco has taken on a formidable challenge and I dare say, succeeded!