Johnny Vidacovich - Drums, Timpani, Vocals
Michael Pellera - Piano
Eric Traub - Tenor Saxophone
Steve Masakowski - Guitar
Charlie Miller - Trumpet
Earl Turbinton, Jr. - Alto Saxophone (Dr. Moon)
James Singleton - Bass
Produced by Jeffrey Meyer
Paw Maw Music
Johnny Vidacovich has finally jumped, as the first cut on his debut album says, "Out 'Da Box" with the release of Mystery Street, his debut as leader. The drummer, best known as the pulse of Astral Project and the Tony Dagradi Trio but also an in-demand sideman in the recording studios, leads a rhythmic romp through original tunes from his own pen and from pianist Michael Pellera, bassist James Singleton (heard on the disc), and album producer Jeff Meyer. Though just released, the album was recorded in 1991; therefore, many of the tunes, particularly Pellera's "New Orleans Mambo" (previously recorded by James Rivers) and "Skypager," will be familiar to local jazz audiences.
No one who knows the fiery yet laid-back Vidacovich will be surprised to hear that this is one upbeat, optimistic CD. It's got life from cut one to the final two-and-a-half minutes of bells, called "Sool Bells," named after a village in Switzerland.
In between there's a lot of funk goin' on with Vidacovich way out in front. There's both a comfortable familiarity and exciting difference in all of this. It's easy, for instance, to imagine hearing the sound of Steve Masakowski's guitar on top of Vidacovich's drums drifting out of the Jazz Fest to "Mystery Street," a tune named after the short road near the Fair Grounds.
"Little Joe/Carnival" is a jewel that starts out soft with classical overtones and moves on to party with some fine blowin' that Vidacovich, as always, encourages. For Vidacovich is never just a time keeper (though he is always right there) but forwards the music both rhythmically and melodically. Oh, and he has the last word here, too--"bah dum," he smashes at the end.
There are some amusing poetic intervals, little time outs with Vidacovich talkin', rappin' the rap on "Squeezin'" and "Dr. Watson," presumably fulfilling his vocal itch. They are just quick and funny enough to be personable without being distracting.
Longtime Vidacovich rhythm section mate James Singleton contributes a fine toe-tapper to the session on "Dr. Moon." It gives another angle on the multi-faceted Vidacovich--less funk, more swing.
Johnny Vidacovich is New Orleans drumming personified and his drums are a welcome addition to any gathering. Mystery Street is Vidacovich's party, and as host he's doing what comes naturally, making sure everyone's relaxed, involved, and having a good time.