It has been my great good fortune to meet and hear trumpeter / singer Enrico Tomasso several times at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party. Because of his deep understanding of jazz from the beginnings to the present, Rico has often been asked to “be” someone else: Louis, George Mitchell, or Roy Eldridge, for a variety of jazz repertory projects. A versatile player, he has no trouble summoning up the great demigods, but in the process, his own personality — subtle yet powerful — shines through. He’s delightfully versatile — like a compelling stage actor who can be Lear one week, Stanley Kowalski the next, without strain. (He’s also a marvelous singer.)
Now, at last, he’s made a small-group CD under his own name — just Rico and rhythm — and it’s delicious. (In keeping with the beautiful productions of Woodville Records, the sound is first-rate; excellent notes by Alyn Shipton, and fine photographs by bassist Andrew Clyndert.)
Although many of the songs on this disc have strong associations with great trumpet players (Louis, Roy, Bobby Hackett, Clark Terry) what we hear is a mature artist — playfully taking chances — creating his own paths through familiar material.
Many compact discs topple under the weight of sameness, offering ten or twenty performances in a row that sound so similar, but Rico has always held variety as an artistic principle, so he manages to change the sound and mood from track to track — with the help of three very sympathetic players, John Pearce, piano; Andrew Cleyndert, string bass; Bobby Worth, drums.
Here’s a taste of Rico in person, being himself:
You can feel his exuberant personality from the first note, and that personality comes through on the CD, whether he’s being tender (THE GOOD LIFE), gently swinging (GONE AND CRAZY), or witty (BROTHERHOOD OF MAN). His tone, glossy, whispery, or gritty, is always a pleasure.
And even if you own the “originals” of LITTLE JAZZ, THE GOOD LIFE, JUBILEE, or others, this CD will be a delightful introduction or re-introduction to a great musician.
If Rico had the publicity he deserves, jazz listeners worldwide would be speaking of him in the same breath with Ruby Braff and Warren Vaché. His music — deeply emotional yet always swinging — is consistently superb. AL DENTE (which I take to mean “perfectly cooked” rather than “chewy”) is a beautiful representation of his art.
May your happiness increase!