Earlier this year I reviewed the latest from Kurt Elling calling his new release the Elling album I had long waited for. Joe Pisto makes his debut release as a vocalist recorded in London on the ever prestigious Emarcy label. In reference to this amazing work, Elling was quoted as stating "Joe sounds great! I'm sure he has a bright future in front of him." Indeed! Pisto is a global triple threat as this native of Italy is the real deal. What makes Pisto's work so unique? A critic's worst nightmare as Pisto transcends genres of jazz, soul, and experimental vocals with an effortless approach moving with grace and fluidity from singer to vocal artist all while maintaining the authentic dynamics necessary to make this vocal artist the new standard others should aspire to. Combine eclectic vocals with the artistry to pull them off without bordering on the self indulgent along with his incomparable work as a guitarist and a flair for presentation that is uniquely his own and you have something incredibly special.
London Vibes gathers together some of the greatest musicians on the British and slightly gritty European scene to lay down some of the most impressive swing and groove collections this critic has heard in ages. Elling's enthusiasm alone catapulted the release to my year end top ten list. The standards that are reharmed here are done with a keen appreciation of melody and lyrical sense of purpose yet with an incredibly engaging personal side. Perhaps the release being dedicated to his father adds an air of intimacy that is rarely shared by artists but here it may be the icing on the cake. The integrity of the originals remain largely intact while a harmonic exploratory allows Pisto to place his own indelible stamp on the other tunes. The quintet is comprised of Quintin Collins on trumpet. Collins is well established as one of Europe's finest jazz trumpet players working today. The critically acclaimed Collins has played with such luminaries as Roy Hargrove, Denis Rollins, and Roy Ayers. Ross Stanley holds down the piano and and Hammond organ work as a first call musician of critical acclaim. Stanley has also worked with Rolling, Maceo Parker, and Steve Howe. Tim Thorton is a regular on the British jazz scene and has recorded with Sector 7 and another ensemble I recently reviewed being the Julian Bliss Septet. Enzil Zirilli does not own the pocket as the drummer, he is the pocket and this critically acclaimed drummer has done stints with Gary Bartz, Randy Brecker, and Steve Wilson.
The Cole Porter classic "So Easy To Love" kicks off the release in grand style. Pisto's slightly articulated vocals add texture and character and that is before you toss in his rhythmic prowess and his talent to scat with the best of them. Collins lays down a first rate trumpet solo with a lyrical sense of purpose and a rhythm section whose motto could easily be swing hard or go home! While never having been a fan of the standard "Nature Boy" the reharm here kills it. Stanley is spot on with his piano work, changing meter and dynamics at will. Technically gifted and artistically proficient this is one player in particular to keep an eye on. One of the more logical questions that pops up when taking jazz vocals would have to be, "Sounds like?"...Sounds like Joe Pisto but musical gun to my head artists such as Michael Buble or a young Tony Bennett immediately come to mind. A former editor would often discourage these musical comparisons but these are shared perspectives and not absolutes. As a tenor player myself, labeling is something I normally always try and steer clear of. The blues infused, hard swing of the Fats Domino standard "I'm Walkin'" is pure unadulterated fun. While the pristine sound quality is certainly an attention grabber, the working band sound of this stellar quintet is unparalleled with their contemporaries. Pisto's command, especially with "I'm Walkin'" shows off the skills and mad chops of a vocal artist that is in full command of his gift and spells entertainment with a capital E. Closing out what for this critic may be the best debut release is the self penned "B-Flat Groove" which is an infectious tune that lingers long after the release has ended.
The rare combination of voice, guitar, phrasing and a lyrical pen that is set on over drive is a beautiful thing. The great Sheila Jordan may have summed up the release as well as anyone by stating, "Joe Pisto sounds wonderful, very soulful and so musical!" - Shiela Jordan. Those that travel my cultural inner circle know full well my love for Italy, the people and of course the great jazz that emanates from the country itself. Joe Pisto is one of those incredibly rare artists that can touch a place deeper than you knew existed and set you hair on fire all at the same time. Joe Pisto is indeed my musical sweet spot.
An artist whose musical stock is an arrow pointing straight up. Joe Pisto is my musical sweet spot. Best debut release for 2012, Top ten album for 2012, and Best New Artist 2012!
Tracks: Easy To Love; Never Let Me Go; But Not For Me; Nature Boy; Jazzy; Oleo; My Foolish Heart; I'm Walkin'; B-Flat Groove.
Personnel: Joe Pisto: vocals, guitar; Quentin Collins: trumpet; Ross Stanley: piano; Tim Thornton: double bass; Enzo Zirilli: drums.
Via You Tube