Musicians: Rocco Ventrella (alto saxophone), Vito Di Modugno, (bass), Alex Milella (guitar), Gino Palmisano (keyboard, piano programming), Saverio Petruzzellis (drums)
Review: Few jazz musicians have epitomized the sound of contemporary jazz as did the late Grover Washington, Jr. Considered by many to be the savior of modern-day jazz because of his ability to cross the lines between R&B, popular and classical music with appeal and ease, Grover's popularity was very wide spread. As one of America's greatest exports, he carried the gospel according to jazz to practically every corner of the globe. His influence on other saxophonists including Gerald Albright, Najee, George Howard, Kenny G and Richard Elliot are widely known; however, there are other musicians who may not be at the top of the list impacted by Grover's unique presence. Enter saxophonist Rocco Ventrella, a musician who has felt Grover's influence from as far away as the continent of Europe, more specifically in Italy. In fact, Rocco may well become one of contemporary jazz's finest imports into the United States with the release of Introducing...Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. Although this CD only contains three tracks, it is one of the most important new recordings I have heard to date. It also goes the distance in elevating the consciousness of Grover Washington's impeccable talent.
Grover Washington, Jr. passed away in 2003. His departure from this planet shocked the world over as they recognized the true measure of his abilities would never be fully realized. Before his death and even thereafter, numerous musicians attempted to duplicate the passionate embrace of music created by this very unique individual. In hindsight, I believe Rocco Ventrella has come a long way in capturing the essence of Grover's sound. The tonal quality of his music is pure Washington, but the creative approach is all Ventrella's.
As stated earlier, there are only three-tracks on Introducing...Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. With that being expressed, it might also be stated that Rocco Ventrella has actually done an outstanding job with Grover's most recognized cuts. They include Winelight," Let It Flow" and Make Me A Memory," all of which reflect Rocco's high regard for Grover. What is just as apparent, is Ventrella's display of musical range, which also makes for a sound activated spiritual energy tribute" to the Father of Contemporary Jazz." Rocco Ventrella's testament to Grover Washington, Jr. gets five stars by my estimation. His music is original and his choice of musicians creates an under tow of musical harmony that makes the CD even more compelling. All of the combined elements contained in this release will overwhelm the harshest of critics and at the end of it all, most will agree that this tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. is one that will surely stand the test of further scrutiny.
Prior to receiving information pertaining to Rocco Ventrella, I did not have a clue about the infectious nature of his sound. If the true nature of what Rocco has been able to accomplish with the release of Introducing...Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. is this dynamic in approach, then his influence will be heart felt and equally embraced by Grover Washington's devoted fan base. This recording left a vacuum with the release of only three tracks, which is a very big tease in my opinion. Rocco left in me an intense urge to replay this CD over and over again, as I anxiously await the next installment from this highly evolved saxophonist.