Ed Palermo Big Band – The Great Un- American Songbook: Volumes 1 and 2
(Cuneiform Records Rune 435/436. Review by Frank Griffith)
Ed Palermo‘s fifth project for Cuneiform is a fond homage to the rockers who ruled the AM and FM airwaves in the 1960s amidst the offerings of the British Invasion. The stellar cast of the EPBB cheekily, but lovingly deconstructs songs, both famous and obscure, with reasonable recognition yet transformed with Palermo’s distinctive flair for irreverance.
Chicago born and bred, Palermo started his band upon moving to NYC in the late 1970s. The material then was largely original with a rhythm section of keyboards, guitar, electric bass and percussion. At this time (believe it or not) this sound helped to advance a strong interface of rock and soul with more traditional big band styles, both of which Palermo had mastery of. As a saxophonist in NYC at the time, I occasionally depped in Ed’s band rehearsals and always found his music to be challenging, provocative and unique. Many of the players on this CD were also with his early line-ups, such as Paul Adamy (bass), Bob Quaranta (keys), Charlie Gordon (trombone) and saxophonists Cliff Lyons and Barbara Cifelli.
Palermo has collaborated with other distinctive jazz musicians, one in particular being guitarist, Dave Stryker, who’s composition Dangerous was arranged by Palermo for his 1994 CD Nomad which I had the pleasure of co-producing and contributing the arrangement of the title tune for. Palermo’s powerful and personal treatment of Dangerous went a significant way towards giving Nomad a well rounded stylistic edge.
Palermo opines: “Almost everything I do lately is reliving my past. With the craft and skill I’ve developed being an arranger for all of these years, I can now take those songs that I grew up with and loved and reinterpret them. I picked my favourite songs, songs that I’m going to want to hear and play a lot. There’s really no other way to explain my selection process.”
Songs from the likes of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, King Crimson, Cream, Jethro Tull, ELP, Traffic and Procol Harum are given a distinctive tribute alongside Palermos’ tongue-in-cheek felicity.
From the jump, Palermo’s band and music manifests greatness with a truly Un-American sentiment and storms the British Invasion, situating the American flag in a somewhat skewered but pleasing to the ear fashion. Dig it.