On I’ve Got News For You – the Music of Edgar Winter, Ed Palermo’s Big Band performs faithful but freshly energized versions of some of the best songs from Entrance, White Trash, and Jasmine Nightdreams
I’ve got News For You – the Music of Edgar Winter
Artist: The Ed Palermo Big Band
Label: Sky Cat Records
16 tracks / 58:52
Ed and Edgar. Palermo and Winter. Cool jazz and hot blues.
Once again, Ed Palermo and his Big Band make musical buried treasure accessible to a new audience. Certainly, Edgar Winter has become a household name, but maybe not for all of the right reasons. “Frankenstein,” “Keep Playin’ That Rock ‘n Roll” and “Free Ride” are all radio staples, and deservedly so, but how many people know “Jump Right Out,” “Rise to Fall,” or “All Out”? The truth is, Winter’s ability to create commercial, radio-ready songs actually served to hide his extraordinary gifts as a jazz and R&B artist.
A young Ed Palermo was one of those fans that latched on early to Winter’s masterful solo album, Entrance, an LP that featured “Winter’s Dream” - an interconnected suite of elegant and swinging jazz compositions featuring insightful, poignant lyrics, unique scat singing, soulful vocal phrasing, and virtuoso sax and keyboard playing by Edgar. Over the years, music lovers like Ed Palermo were excited by Edgar’s rhythm and blues / funk masterpiece, White Trash, and his second solo album, Jasmine Nightdreams, (where Edgar once again unleashed his jazzier side). Just like he knew that the music of another hero, Frank Zappa, was often dismissed by self-proclaimed musical sophisticates, Palermo knew that this aspect of Edgar Winter’s music was largely overlooked by the masses. Ed wasn’t content with that situation and for several years has been re-introduced Zappa’s music to a new generation. Now he’s doing the same for Edgar Winter - and I, for one, thank him (I think Mr. Palermo even managed to slip a riff from Zappa’s “Po Jama People” into “Peace Pipe”).
Tributes are tricky. The risk of going too far in emulating the original is counter-balanced by the temptation to let your ego run wild, creating renditions of the originals that are so wildly stretched out of context that the subject of the ‘tribute’ is virtually ignored. Ed has managed to walk that fine balance of truly honoring the music and keeping the integrity of his band, with fresh arrangements of the source material that allow the musicians to put their own stamp on the project. In the case of Edgar Winter’s music in particular, it was important to deliver these more obscure pieces compositionally intact for those who’ve never heard the originals - Palermo’s careful treatment has done this exceptionally well. Ironically, the first two and last two tracks on the album are not Edgar Winter compositions but show what an indelible stamp he puts on any music he performs - in particular, “Tobacco Road” and “I’ve Got News For You,” which are as identified with Edgar as “With a Little Help From My Friends” is with Joe Cocker.
On I’ve Got News For You – the Music of Edgar Winter, Ed Palermo’s Big Band (along with musical guests) performs faithful but freshly energized versions of some of the best songs from Entrance, White Trash, and Jasmine Nightdreams as well as a swinging rendition of brother Johnny’s “I Hate Everybody” (from Second Winter) and a never-recorded stunningly bluesy version of “You Are My Sunshine” that simply has to be heard to be believed.
Palermo has a knack for keeping the best of what’s already there, respecting the spirit of the original and tweaking it with just the right amount of Big Band sauce. Of course Ed’s band members are a well-oiled machine, and display superlative ensemble playing on every track. A bucket full of kudos go to Ed’s magnificent crew: Cliff Lyons (alto sax, clarinet), Phil Chester (alto sax, flute), Bill Staub (tenor sax, clarinet), Ben Kono (tenor sax, flute, Oboe), Barbara Cifelli (barritone sax), Ronnie Buttacavoli (lead trumpet), John Bailey (trumpet), Steve Jankowski (trumpet), Charley Gordon (lead trombone), Mike Boschen (trombone), Matt Ingman (bass trombone), Bob Quaranta (piano), Ted Kooshian (electric keyboards), Paul Adamy (bass), and Ray Marchica (drums). Of course, the whole crew is led by Ed Palermo, bandleader, arranger, and alto sax. Special sit-in guest musicians are Robben Ford and Jimmy Leahey on electric guitar and Katie Jacoby on violin, who all turn in memorable performances.
Perhaps the greatest challenge here would be the performance of the vocals. Winter’s voice is a stunningly memorable and versatile instrument with a timbre, range, and phrasing that are unmistakably his own. To try to imitate his performance would be a mistake - and thankfully, Kim Davis, Vaneese Thomas, Deb Lyons, Chris Poland, Rob Paparozzi, KeithAnthony Fluitt, and Carlos Muguia put their own vocal imprint on these songs to fine effect, creating their own statements - not falling into the trap of trying to replicate Winter’s unique and very special signature moments (yes, I’m talking about the end of “Tobacco Road”).
Time and space prevent me from detailing the many amazing performances that are all over this album (but if you insist, I’ll take a moment to praise the brilliant band arrangement of the pastoral segue between “Back in the Blues” and “Re-Entrance” that was originally done on guitar) but let me sum up by saying this; if you’ve never heard this music, you owe it to yourself to get this album and discover what you’ve been missing - it’s a joy to listen to. If you are familiar with this music, you also owe it to yourself to get this album. Maybe - like me - the rediscovery of these great songs dressed up in fresh musical clothes and sounding crisp, vital, and beautifully produced will bring a tear to your eye. I’ll admit it - these jazzy, bluesy, soulful songs really got to me ...again.
Thank you, Edgar. Thank you, Ed.
You can see concert photography by Bert Saraco (including pictures of Edgar Winter and The Ed Palermo Big Band in action) at the link below.