Pat Petrillo Big Rhythm Band: The Power Station Sessions

Funky, sometimes swinging set from New York drummer features Nile Rodgers, Oz Noy and Lenny Pickett on bold readings of pops

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This album of jazzed pops led by New Jersey session drummer Pat Petrillo was recorded mainly in the Hell’s Kitchen district of Manhattan. These are indeed very much Big Apple sessions, the city’s 24/7 dynamism captured in punchy, often dense, mostly uncredited charts and arrangements. The Big Rhythm Band is big and rhythmic – and it’s a band, involving 16 musicians and six guests variously deployed and all of a go.

Petrillo isn’t a household jazz name but his biog has him backing and working with Patti LaBelle, Gloria Gaynor and Chieli Minucci, among others, with little apparent association with the big band tradition. Yet these heavily drum-driven charts are tightly organised and liable to erupt with solo goodies, notably from guitarists Nile Rodgers, Oz Noy and Felicia Collins and tenorist Lenny Pickett. The drummer stands out with a solo on Runnin’, but mostly he focuses on the ensemble, in a muscular, forthright manner as seen in the video for 48th Street, featuring Rodgers:

The Pat Petrillo Big Rhythm Band rip it up on 48th Street, single from the new album

You might wonder how a driving ensemble like this would sound behind a singer. Then up steps vocalist Glen Burtnik for Lennon & McCartney’s It Won’t Be Long, with Petrillo, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, out-motoring Ringo’s original kit bash. The song’s crude harmonies are a stylistic shock in a set of generally sophisticated structures.

Petrillo extends the pop flavouring to reference the Beach Boys in Asbury Daze (complete with a contemporary radio advert for Asbury Park Beach resort) and Stevie Wonder in Knocks Me Off My Feet. He also lightens the texture to feature Noy on Steely Dan’s Black Cow (soloing extensively with a sweetly searing tone redolent of Larry Carlton) and switches funk to swing on Billy Joel’s Big Man On Mulberry Street.

The band’s groove is both concentrated and subtle, especially in its use of 22 musicians in permutation and the discreet use of organ, harmonica (John Popper) and supportive percussion.

Discography
48th Street; Big Man On Mulberry Street; Asbury Daze; Black Cow; It Won’t Be Long; Runnin’; Global Warming; Knocks Me Off My Feet; Hey, Pocky Way (39.03)
Steve Jankowski (t, vtb, arr); Jesus Viramontes (tb); Garrett Faccone, John Replogle (t); Tom Timko (ww); Meredith Foreman (as); James Merchant (ts); David Cook (p, kyb, org); Chris Fischer (kyb, syn); Plinky Giglio (org, g); B D Lenz (g); Scott Ambush, Greg Novick (elb); Petrillo (d, pc); Jose Rossy, Sergio Bellotti (pc). Guests: Nile Rodgers, Oz Noy, Felicia Collins (g); John Popper (hca); Glen Burtnik (v); Lenny Pickett (ts). New York City, c. 2022.
Autumn Hill