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Andy Fusco - Big Man's Blues $12.95


Andy Fusco - Alto Sax, Walt Weiskopf - Tenor Sax, Renee Rosnes - Piano, John Goldsby - Bass, Bill Drummond - Drums

Embraceable You
Big Man's Blues
Love Letters
My Old Flame
Little Melonae
Total Time 64:54

Listen to CD Tracks


    When I first met Andy Fusco on the Buddy Rich Band in 1979 he stood six feet, two inches tall and weighed two hundred ninety pounds. A big man by any standard. He ran four miles and smoked two packs of unfiltered Pall Malls a day. I think most of the band was a little scared of him, which I don't think he minded at all. The present day Andy is a kinder, gentler Andy - he weighs in at about 240 - still a big man. Musically: Andy Fusco is a giant.

    Andy Fusco was raised in New Jersey. He played clarinet and saxophone from an early age. His earliest musical influence was his mother who was (and still is) a better than average cocktail pianist. Andy went to Syracuse University on a football scholarship; playing saxophone the whole time. After college he was asked to try out with the New York Jets, but was cut from the squad because of a knee injury. Andy played semipro football in Jersey for awhile, and at the same time began playing the alto more seriously. Soon it was clear that his football career was over and his career as a jazz musician was just beginning.

    I met Andy boarding the Buddy Rich Band bus in Dayton, Ohio - he had played his first gig with the band the night before and I knew that he was the real thing. Whether it's Otis Reddin, Glenn Gould, Hank Williams, Miles Davis... well you get the idea. Music isn't a scoreable event, so it's fruitless to try to figure out who is "Best". Enough philosophy - quite frankly Fusco burns it out, his time and harmonic knowledge and more importantly his use of it is fabulous. His playing is the real thing.

    To me Walt Weiskopf is a perfect example of the playing mirroring the person. He plays with Coltrane at his side, using his own creative intellectual style without losing any essence or swing. What relentlessness and command of his equipment. Walt joined Buddy's band at the age of 21. He saw in Andy Fusco the mentor he needed to become and the player he wanted to be. Andy took him on and these two guys became lifelong friends.

    The rhythm section on this date is a real treat. Each musician has payed their dues and they each own a distinct sound, style and concept of how this music is played. The interaction between them is what makes this group swing.

    "Embraceable You" is the Andy I went nuts for way back in '79 on Buddy Rich's great big band. What a beautiful solo.

    "Stablemates" begins with Walt's big tenor sound, then Andy follows in the higher range. Renee is consistently right on the money. Billy and John keep things right in place.

    "Big Man's Blues" makes me want to get my horn out and blow right along with these guys. The ending reminds me of "Sting" - who's complaining.

    "Love Letters" brings back my youth, listening to Sonny Rollins with Wilbur Ware and Elvin. The bass and drums are really happenin'. Andy thrives in the bare bones setting.

    "Airegin" is a first take and boy is it a beauty. With the tempo up, the horns are right on the mark and the trading at the end is fantastic. It's not that it's real good, it's real great!

    "Pensativa" has it all. It illustrates the contrast between the horn players and at the same time clearly showcases a great rhythm section. Playing on a song like this is like crossing a stream, stepping on the dry stones until you come to the other side. Wrong note - wet feet. This is consummate Fusco. Andy doesn't sound like anyone but himself. He has always had a uniqueness to his sound. Add his liquid technique and his notes are just like the right words in a beautifully told story. Walt, on the other hand, starts his solo by throwing rocks into the stream. His first four bars are unbelievable.

    Renee starts "My Old Flame" and a half a chorus later any and all questions about how it should be done have been answered. No smoke machine, no mirrors, no backup singers, no overdubs, just a great quartet playing lean, tender, sexy jazz.

    Bassist John Goldsby's "Scooter" seems to play itself. It's a groove tune reminiscent of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, giving the guys a rest before the more serious and hard swinging tunes to come.

    "Little Melonae" and Andy's composition "Con-Ruthsion" conclude this set with a bang. The group seems to be strongest when playing these intricate melodies with counter points and short punching solos. Renee, Billy and John are at ease as the two horns banter with each other.

    Andy and Walt both do their thing in a grand style; virtuosity in a far broader sense than mere command of the horn. We all see the trees, but very few can paint the picture. There is the "Current Style" and then there is "Style" and no two things could be more different. There is personality here. There are character actors that thrive on doing the same role movie after movie. Then there are the DeNiro's, Nicholson's and Hoffman's; powerful individual personalities, but with the flexibility to do any role with sensitivity and understanding. I can't think of a better example of this in a musical setting than Andy Fusco. He is always himself, but with that special talent. Every solo is unique and true to character.

    When I listen to this album, I feel like I did when I was a kid listening to great players and trying to figure out why they sounded so good. Now I know. It's because they can see the trees and paint them, too.

 Steve Marcus - Sept. '96

Special thanks to my wife Ruth and Buddy Rich, who got my career off the ground.

Andy Fusco