If you haven’t heard of Al Porcino, make your way to Marc Myers’ excellent blog JazzWax and check out a three-part interview with the legendary trumpet player. The short version: Porcino was one of the most in-demand lead trumpet players from the 1940’s-1970’s in the United States, playing in nearly every major big band (Kenton, Herman, Buddy Rich, Terry Gibb’s Dream Band, Thad/Mel, etc.) and leading his own bands. He moved to Germany in the 1970’s where he had his own big bands and occasionally came back to the U.S. for special recording dates and performances. One such recording date was for the small JazzMark label (based in Arkansas, of all places), recorded April, 6, 1986 at Media Sound, NYC.
It’s interesting that this is an Al Porcino album, because all the tracks are Al Cohn arrangements and Cohn is the featured soloist. Even more interesting perhaps is that Porcino is not a soloist - he doesn’t play changes. His forte is the screech-trumpet playing that’s on par with Maynard Ferguson (though Porcino was active years before Maynard) and the ability to swing and lead a section. His partner in swing is the incomparable Mel Lewis, who is the ideal drummer for this band. His style is always loose and swinging and his aesthetic of being the “small group” style drummer in a big band serves this ensemble well. There are also some notable Thad/Mel alums on this record, namely in the saxophone section, namely Dick Oatts and Ted Nash. Though Al Cohn is the featured soloist on this record, he doesn’t play any of the section parts.
In Oblivion was recorded direct to digital, which was how some record labels like Deutsche Gramophone were recording in the 80’s and somehow seems more organic then than digital recording does now. Whatever they spent on the recording must have diminished the artwork budget though, because this cover leaves something to be desired. The album did get a CD issue (with different artwork), but to my knowledge hasn’t been reissued since its original release. Chris Smith’s book View From the Back of the Band: The Life and Music of Mel Lewis, Smith mentions this album and it really is worth checking out. The Al Cohn arrangements are swinging, the soloists are great and the band is in fine form.
I Cover The Waterfront
Music to Dance To
Autumn in New York
Tea for Lou
Love Come Back To Me
All The Things You Are
The Goof and I
Leader and Trumpet: Al Porcino
Al Cohn: Arrangements and solos
Trumpets: John Marshall, Gerry Lefum, Don Hahn
Trombones: Bertil Strandberg (lead), John Mosca, Larry Farrell, Joe Randazzo (bass)
Saxes: Mike Migliore (lead alto), Dick Oatts (as), Gary Klein, Richie Perry (ts), Tom Boras (bs), Ted Nash (as)
Piano: Tardo Hammer
Bass: Roger Rhodes
Drums: Mel Lewis